Stringent safety protocols, strict adherence to safety norms and mandatory audits and risk assessments are required to make the cement manufacturing process less hazardous and accident-prone. ICR looks at the various measures that companies are implementing in order to remain on top of the safety game.
The oil and gas industries of the world have witnessed catastrophic blasts and hazards at their plants. Safety is always a matter of concern and conversation in the said industries. The cement industry, though less volatile when compared to the oil and gas industry, is also adept to hazardous working conditions, and safety is of paramount importance at the cement plants as well.
Cement is one of the most widely used substances in the world. It has the second highest consumption worldwide after water, studies have noted. Making this high demand product is labour- and resource-intensive and this has an impact on the environment as well as the health and safety of those involved in the process. The process of making cement begins at the mining site and ends when the product is packaged and loaded in trucks to move out of the plant. Safety in operations and for personnel must be looked after at each step in the process.
Health and safety at a cement plant is a two-way street. It is the organisation’s responsibility to create a workplace environment in order to protect their employees from the various risks. It is also the duty of every personnel to adhere to the safety rules and compliances ensued by the organisation. To streamline this and to look after the safety of the plant, specific experts and departments are set in place. Audits are also conducted from time to time to understand the maintenance and adherence to safety standards and best practices at cement plants.
Cement making is a continuous process. Right from the excavation of raw material to the movement of finished goods, safety concerns arise at each point in practice.
Quarrying involves extraction of limestone by the process of drilling, blasting and extracting. This large stone is then transported to a crusher that breaks it down into smaller pieces which make it easier to prepare the raw mix. During this process, workmen are exposed to dust, noise and movement of heavy equipment and vehicles. Each touchpoint has potential hazards.
Once the raw mix is fed to the kiln, the chemical reaction begins with the help of heat, which is primarily achieved from coal. These plants are huge and the feeding process is automated, however, working in such a high temperature zone can be a potential cause of a hazard due to negligence or human error.
At the end of the cement making process, the final product is loaded in trucks. This is done manually. Multiple accidents can take place at this point as well. From loading vehicles harming the labour to the workmen tripping or falling, hazards can occur at any point.
These are the major areas of concern every organisation must keep a lookout for. Besides the physical accidents or hazards, health of the employees and workers is of primary concern for the organisation. Coming in contact with pollutants or particles may cause respiratory or skin issues, while the noise may cause hearing damage.
According to a Risk Assessment Report published by Ultratech Cement, the cement industry experiences risk of several hazards inherent to the cement production process that mainly impact those working within the industry. Some health hazards can also create an impact on local communities. The potentially hazardous areas and the likely incidents with the concerned area have been enlisted below in Table – 1.
The International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET) Volume 4 describes major hazards being an associated term with material, which is a measure or the likelihood of the human working with or studying the material in question.
All the probable potential hazards are classified under different heads, namely:
• Fire hazards
• Toxic gas release hazards
• Explosion hazards
• Corrosion hazards
Fire is dangerous if it occurs in an uncontrolled manner. It is important to understand in a plant environment that use of liquid with its flash point below the normal ambient temperature, in suitable circumstances could liberate enough vapours to give rise to flammable mixtures with air. Thus, causing a fire hazard in the cement plant.
Toxic hazards are caused by ingestion, absorption and inhalation of toxic substances that may be released in the open environment due to a glitch or imperfection in the equipment. These toxins could enter the human body and cause irritation or inflammation.
Corrosion hazards take place when chemicals or other corrosive materials touch the surface of equipment, thus, deteriorating their strength and performance which may lead to accidents or harm to the plant and those working there.
Uncontrolled release or capture of energy leads to explosion hazards. This can be very dangerous for those around the same.
In addition to specific hazards, there are also general hazards in all of the cement manufacturing processes such as safe behaviour, work equipment, safety labelling, personal protective equipment (PPE), manual load handling (TRIA Project) etc.
Respiratory health has a long history within the cement industry, and it is a topic of consistent focus. Cement manufacturing is multifaceted, and companies formulate, implement and periodically evaluate respiratory protection among employees to guard against dust exposures. Cement plants consider all other conditions affecting miners’ health, such as exposure to excessive noise and hazardous materials. Hearing conservation programmes require baseline audio testing and subsequent tests.
Dust emissions are one of the most significant impacts of cement manufacturing and associated with handling and storage of raw materials (including crushing and grinding of raw materials), solid fuels, transportation of materials (e.g., by trucks or conveyor belts), kiln systems, clinker coolers, and mills, including clinker and limestone burning and packaging/bagging activities. Packaging is the most polluting process (in terms of dust) in cement production. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are emitted from the high temperature combustion process of the cement kiln. Carbon dioxide defined as greenhouse gas is mainly associated with fuel combustion and with the decarbonation of limestone. These can be the reasons for causing respiratory or other health disorders.
Safety Needs Good Practices
As much as it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure the safety of its employees, staff and workmen, it is equally their responsibility as well to be aware, alert and follow rules and regulations for their safety and for others safety as well. Audits are a key to maintaining good plant safety and understanding the gaps that may occur at the cement plant or unit.
Kanishk Khanna, CEO, Elion Technologies and Consulting, says, “In general, it is a good practice to conduct safety audits at least once a year, but some companies may choose to conduct them more frequently. Cement plants possess multiple hazards so it is also important to conduct safety audits following any significant changes to the facility or its operations, such as new equipment or processes or after any incidents or accidents. Annual Safety Audits are also mandatory as per factory rules. For these audits, the rules vary from state to state.”
The cement manufacturing industry is labour intensive and uses large scale and potentially hazardous manufacturing processes. Therefore, health and safety is the number one priority for the cement industry for its employees, contractors, end-users and all those associated with the workings of the cement manufacturing process.
Exposure to dust and high temperatures, contact with allergic substances, and noise exposure can be defined as hazards associated with health; while falling / impact with objects; hot surface burns; and transportation, working at height, slip/trips/falls can be defined as hazards associated with safety. It is a critical issue that ensures a health and safety culture in workplaces.
For this purpose, health and safety policy should be adapted with other policies of the company. Additionally, the risk management policy of the company should be developed and risk assessment should be performed regularly and efficiently.
“At UCWL, we have well planned, systematically designed safety guidelines/ standards for safety in our organisation. We have consequence management standards for employees / workers who do not follow safety or break any safety rules and guidelines at the workplace and penalties are imposed. Here, we have comprehensive safety guidelines in our
plant for achieving our vision ‘Zero Harm.’ These guidelines keep employees safe and protect their well-being,” says Nirmal K Jain, Safety Head, JK Lakshmi Cement.
“By following the safety guidelines employees can perform their jobs more effectively and confidently without fear of being injured or suffering from an illness. We have separate safety guidelines for road safety, lifting safety, working at height, hot work, confined space working, covid-19 etc.,” he adds.
The objective of the safety managers of the organisation as well as every individual should be to maintain the utmost responsible approach towards the safety of self, fellow workmen and the plant as a whole.
Basic safety rules to be followed in a cement plant are as follows:
• Wearing job specific personal protective equipment. Some processes may require a basic PPE
while some may require additions like earplugs, gloves etc.
• Ensuring all guards are in place before starting a process. Machines have safety guards or valves which must be in place before operating them. Any alteration done to the guards would require written permission from authorised personnel.
• Regular inspections of machinery health and safety standards. This would involve checking for any kind of cracks, leaks, unlocked
guards, safety equipment, personal protective equipment etc.
• Using fall protections when working on heights like harness, helmet etc.
• Masks and shields for confined spaces and activities involving dust or fumes
• Any kind of distractions like mobile phones
are discouraged to be used in the plant while performing high risk activities or processes in the cement plant.
Manufacturers of safety equipment for the cement, Hemanshu Hashia, Country Head, Safety Joggers India says, “In India, typically safety equipment manufacturers have been following only one standard of norms for their quality tests. However, the times have changed and globally the demand is for all standard certifications in one product. Therefore, we are also educating the users of safety equipment in India to ask for global quality standard norms and are making it available for them at the same price.”
Safety in the Technology Era
Digitalisation of plants, its machinery and functions has not only positively impacted the efficiency and productivity of cement manufacturing, but has also contributed towards making plants safer.
Cement manufacturers are moving towards installation of monitoring equipment and softwares at maximum machineries for every process which helps them monitor functions in real time as well as understand indicators and preventive maintenance signals. Once such signals are noticed, action can be taken in time to prevent a breakdown of any function, which may lead to a certain hazard in the cement plant.
Similarly, automation in processes has reduced manual intervention in the functionality of cement manufacturing, thus, making machines work on the more difficult and risky tasks that were earlier performed by workmen or skilled personnel. Thus, avoiding accidents and hazards in the plant.
Technology is also enabling tracking and maintenance of protective gear in the plant. It allows those responsible for sourcing and restocking of the PPE to call for required gear when they are running down on inventory. It also allows them to monitor feedback and function of this gear as well as keep track of every person wearing the gear and working in the plant.
Safety is a matter of life and death in industries like cement where plants function with heat, pressure and combustible matter. Thus, it becomes important for organisations to have concrete guidelines in place for their employees and workmen and have all standards and protocols followed for the functions of the plant. Protective gear or function specific PPE should be always available for those who have to perform tasks in the plant.
Organisations should provide training at all levels of working professionals to educate them on the safety measures and protocol. These training should be revised and repeated at regular intervals for old employees and be a part of orientation and induction for new employees and workers. In case of negligence, there should be strict punishment for not following safety protocols.
Accidents not only cost money, but lives, too.
ACC launches ‘Bagcrete’, a pre-blended concrete solution
The company’s ongoing innovation process is consistent with ACC Bagcrete
ACC, the cement and building material company of Adani Cement and part of the Adani Group, has been a pioneer in building innovative concrete solutions. The company’s ongoing innovation process is consistent with ACC Bagcrete, a proportional balance of premium components produced to generate high-quality concrete mix.
The company has added a new product dimension to the building industry with ACC Bagcrete, a hassle-free, smart, and user-friendly concrete solution for all types of construction demands. A stronger, more durable final product is produced as a result of the pre-blended components being meticulously measured to ensure uniform quality.
The product was created to offer the best compressive strength (10 MPa to 80 MPa), exceptional workability retention, and unmatched ease of placement, a trifecta of attributes that set it apart from competing products. In contrast to traditional concrete, which necessitates the mixing of various components on-site, it is a pre-blended mixture of cement, sand, and aggregates. For building projects that call for a quick and effective application method, ACC Bagcrete is ideal.
There are two functional variants of the versatile building material ACC Bagcrete: dry-mix and wet-mix. The dry-mix is pre-blended concrete that may be used right away with just the addition of water. wet-mix is pre-mixed, immediately usable concrete that doesn’t require any additional mixing before use. This can be especially helpful in places with scarce water supplies or where conventional concrete mixing techniques are impractical. Both kinds of ACC Bagcrete are of exceptional quality and effectiveness. This unique concrete solution is ideal for remote job sites and maintenance projects since it can be easily transported in the form of bags, enhancing productivity.
Ajay Kapur, CEO, Cement Business, said “We are dedicated to pursuing product innovations and offering the finest products and services to our customers. We have always strived to create products of the highest calibre in order to meet the varied needs of our customers and assist them in constructing robust structures. ACC Bagcrete is a unique product that not only meets but also exceeds the demands of our customers.”
The prestigious university IIT Bombay has recently reaped significant benefits of using ACC Bagcrete for a special need in its R&D Lab of Civil Engineering Department. The M80 Grade ACC Bagcreate has also been used in various NHPC projects in spillway repair. ACC Bagcrete is a unique solution that guarantees minimal waste, accelerates construction, and improves longevity with constant quality. In conclusion, dry-mix concrete is a versatile and convenient option for construction projects of all types.
Ambuja Cements’ loyalty programme wins top award
Has been awarded as the ‘Most Innovative Loyalty Programme of the Year’
Ambuja Cements, the cement and building materials company of Adani Cement and part of Adani Group, has been awarded the ‘Most Innovative Loyalty Programme of the Year’ at the Customer Fest Leadership Awards 2023 for its Contractor Loyalty Programme – ‘Ambuja Abhimaan’. This award acknowledges the Company’s exceptional efforts in creating and maintaining an outstanding loyalty programme that has helped build strong relationships with its contractor partners.
The evaluation of nominations was conducted by an eminent jury panel of experts, and Ambuja’s innovative and transformational initiatives such as skill upgradation programmes, family engagement and social welfare, talent hunt contests, and business aid to contractors were highlighted. These initiatives differentiated Ambuja from competitors and helped win the award under the Customer Loyalty – Organisational category. The event featured more than 50+ renowned brands across various industries.
Ajay Kapur, CEO, Cement Business, said, “Ambuja has always been synonymous with strength, and we are honoured to be recognised for our strong commitment and efforts that go beyond cement. This award is a testament to our commitment to delivering exceptional experiences to our partners and customers. We thank the jury panel and all the participants for acknowledging our efforts towards customer centricity and innovation.”
Ambuja Abhimaan, a differentiated long-term loyalty programme has achieved many milestones, including recognition as one of the best mobile loyalty programmes, engaging and benefiting 1.2 lakh+ key contractors.
Ambuja places order for capacity expansion of 14 MT cement
This will enable the production of blended green cement of 14 MT
Ambuja Cements, the cement and building material company of the diversified Adani Group, placed orders to expand clinker capacity by 8 million tonne at Bhatapara and Maratha units on the highest ESG standards with 42 MW of WHRS, provision to utilise 50% AFR and provision to operate on green power.
The capacity expansion projects will enable the production of blended green cement of 14 million tonne, post all requisite approvals. These projects will generate substantial value for the existing business and enable more employment and growth opportunities in the States, beneficial for all stakeholders.
These projects are expected to be commissioned in 24 months and the capex will be funded from internal accruals.
Ajay Kapur, CEO, Cement Business, said, “These brownfield expansion projects are part of our strategy to double our production capacity over the next five years from the current capacity of 67.5 MTPA. Our ongoing investments in capacity expansion and sustainability will enable us to achieve our long-term objectives, as we remain committed to delivering sustainable growth and value to our stakeholders.”
The Company remains committed to achieving significant size, scale, and market leadership with a strong emphasis on margin expansion and world-class ESG standards.