Safety first in Jamshedpur

JAMSHEDPUR, India – Heavy denim coats, shin guards, steel-toed shoes, hair nets, safety goggles and hard hats required to enter Tata Steel’s Jamshedpur, India, plant was enough to send one member of our group to the plant hospital Wednesday afternoon, possibly for heat exhaustion.

The getup, coupled with temperatures skyrocketing above 100 degrees and stifling heat coming from the integrated mill’s blast furnace made for a nasty combination.

Although it might not seem it from the outside, the requirements actually did show pretty clearly Tata’s attitude toward health and safety.

In India, you see, tough industrial safety regulations aren’t enforced by governmental agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Association, or OSHA, in the U.S. In fact, a report released by an agency under the direction of India’s Department of Science in Technology in 2009 outlined ways in which workers and the government should work together to increase industrial safety awareness.

Still, the lack of any safety guidelines certainly wasn’t apparent Wednesday afternoon when a group of U.S. journalists, including myself, visited the plant in a remote area of eastern India.

Tata Steel owns and operates Thomas Steel Strip in Warren.

Kapil Sharma, manager of Tata Sons North America office in Washington, D.C., who is accompanying us on the trip, pointed out as we wound through the massive, high-tech, blast furnace, castors and cold rolling mill, that Tata Steel was one of the first companies in India to put together a safety team and hold safety meetings, much like its counterparts in the United States, Germany and Sweden.

Located within the gates of this plant and a nearby Tata Motors automotive manufacturing plant, were fully staffed fire brigades, equipped with multiple fire trucks for each plant backed into the bays in a fire house much like one would see in any local municipality.

Later Wednesday, our group got a chance to tour the Tata Motors automotive manufacturing plant, also in Jamshedpur, and likewise was required to adhere to the plant’s safety attire requirements.

And after having toured comparable steel and auto making facilities in Ohio, I can tell you that the safety requirements to enter Tata’s plants in India far outpaced those experiences in terms of safety precautions domestically.