A RECENT report by the National Union of Metal and Allied Industries in Zimbabwe (NUMAIZ) has flagged Gweru-based Chinese ferro-chrome producer, Almid, for flouting safety regulations resulting in occasional accidents.
According to NUMAIZ, a June 2023 furnace accident that led to the death of a worker, Hurawa Tanatsa, and left three other employees nursing serious burns was a result of gross negligence.
The union said the June incident was not the first at the company.
“There was a sudden eruption (sic) (explosion) and the whole furnace floor was engulfed by fire and fragments of molten material and employees ran through the flames in different directions resulting in a stampede. Three injuries with the potential of multiple fatalities were recorded,” the union noted.
“From NUMAIZ, the observations after a visit made on June 21 was that the furnace feed had a high fine content of +60% of -3mm,” the union said.
“If the furnace is fed with too much fines it (furnace) will be choked hence it will cause an eruption. When smelting the feed produces vases, hence the feed needs to be coarse to allow cases to pass through, failure of which (feed to be coarse) will result in the formation of a blanket which will eventually cause eruption (explosion).”
The union noted that the stairway to the first floor where the deceased and injured were working was too steep and narrow that escaping fast in the event of an accident was impossible.
It also pointed out that at the furnaces there are no flame and molten fragments shield cubicles to hide in case of an explosion.
“There is also no screen test analysis done at Almid to determine particle size distribution of raw materials and the standard measure must be less than 15% of -10mm,” according to the union’s report.
NUMAIZ said when the union and officials from the Labour ministry visited the plant two days after the accident, the furnace was already back online before the issues that had caused the explosion had been addressed.
“The immediate cause of the accident was that the total fines proportion into the furnace was more than +60%,” the union said.
The labour body also pointed to lack of basic safety precautions at the chrome firm like failure to carry out feed screen analysis, absence of standard operating procedures and lack of in-house induction and training for workers, among others.
Company spokesperson Sam Shen said the firm had put in place safety precautions to avoid future accidents.
He also said the company managed to compensate victims and families of the affected workers.