While I was in college, I took a communications class that focused on issues overseas. During my time in that class, we watched a movie that I will remember forever. Being a business student, I had watched my fair share of documentary films about sweatshops, shady business practices and ethics. I’ve watched the exact same Wal-Mart movie in FIVE different classes; I can pretty much quote it word for word. What made this film different was that it told the story of how the small village of Bhopal, India dealt with a terrible disaster in 1984.
The MIC production plant in Bhopal manufactured a pesticide that involved combing a variety of dangerous chemicals together. In the evening, it was noticed that a small leak had occurred in one of the tanks and a dangerous level of pressure occurred. Very long story short, when it was not dealt with correctly, a huge plant explosion rocked the city.
A LOT of factors contributed to this horrible disaster, most of it due to improper pre planning and maintenance. The company, as well as the city, had no action plans or idea of what to do when things went wrong with the plant. The company was using outdated and often broken equipment. The safety systems that were in place in case of an emergency had actually been shut off to save money. The personnel running the plant were inexperienced, unmotivated and generally unaware of the troubles that were about to occur.
If they had had a working flare tower and air scrubbers, the severity of this disaster could have been lessened, or quite possibly prevented entirely. Only one air scrubber was operating correctly, the others had been out of commission for over five months; it was probably assumed they were not needed. A dangerous bargain when the purpose of the air scrubber is to treat the chemical coming out of the towers, and get it down to a safe level.
You combine all of these factors together, and the result of this led to what is considered one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes. This just goes to show how important it is to ensure that your equipment is running correctly, your staff is informed and your community is made aware of your practices.