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Gauley Bridge Disaster and Bhopal Disaster

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Accident Causation

Gauley Bridge Disaster

Industrial disasters were common during the great depression because of the disregard for safety guidelines by contracting companies. Accident causations during this period were mainly the inability by organization to uphold the safety regulations for employees working in hazardous conditions such as silicosis infection as in the case of the Gauley Bridge disaster. The Gauley Bridge disaster is one of the largest industrial disasters in the United States. The disaster occurred in 1930s during the great recession (Corn 132). The project that led to the occurrence of the disaster involved the construction of a hydroelectric generation power in West Virginia. This required the diversion of water of the two rivers in the area to enhance the power generation process (Magnuson 322).

The Rinehart and Dennis Company and the New Kanahwa Power Company companies were involved in the construction the tunnel and power plant respectively. The Rinehart and Dennis Company contracted both African-Americans and Caucasians to work in the construction of the tunnel in 1930s. The construction of the tunnel involved drilling through a rock that had a high percentage of silicon. Research indicates that some of the rocks in the area, had approximately 99.3% silicon, which was very hazardous to humans. In addition, the workforce at the tunnel were not provided with the appropriate safety gears and the machinery used contributed to increase in dust from the site (Corn 133). The individuals working at the site were exposed to high levels of silicon from the rock and hence contracted silicosis.

The exact number of individuals who died from the disaster was not established by the approximate number provided was 700 individuals; most of whom were African-Americans. The causes of the disaster involved the failure by the company to examine the conditions of the area in terms of silicon percentage in order to employ the appropriate safety mechanisms (Magnuson 324). In addition, the workers were not provided with dust masks which could have reduced the number of deaths as well as silicosis infections.

Bhopal Disaster

The Bhopal disaster occurred because of the leakage of the methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from various storage tanks of the Union Carbide factory in India.  The Union carbide factory is located in the region of Madhya Pradesh at Bhopal, India. The methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas is used as an intermediate in the production of pesticides and is produced by mixing phosgene gas with methyl amine. The total amount of gas that was released to the air from the factory is estimated to be 36 tones (Bowonder and Harold 184). The methyl isocyanate gas had various effects on the environment and residents of Bhopal such as chest tightness, burning sensation in the eyes and reduction of levels of oxygen from the environment. This gas accident caused approximately 2500 deaths and caused permanent physical body damage to approximately 17000 individuals. The pollution caused by this disaster continue to affect the residents of Bhopal due to the pollution of water and soils in the surrounding areas (Bowonder and Harold 190).

The causes of the Bhopal disaster were both technical and safety issues. The inappropriate storage of the gas in tanks for long duration violated the safety guidelines. In addition, the location of the factory in a populous neighborhood contributed to the high number of causalities. Other causes include the malfunctioning of the refrigeration units and safety devices at the factory. This accident could have be prevented through the implementation of various safety guidelines such as installation of adequate number of safety devices and the storage of the gas at the right containers based on the safety guidelines (Bowonder and Harold 200). The factory should be located in sparsely populous areas to minimize the number of casualties in case of an accident.

Related Accidents or Disasters

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire: This industrial accident occurred in New York City in 1905. The disaster caused approximately 100 workers through burning and injuries while escaping fire. The disaster was caused by malfunctioning of the machines and failure by the company to uphold safety guidelines on fire. A legislation requiring improved safety guidelines in the industries was established to prevent future accidents.

Chicago Crib Disaster: This disaster occurred in 1909 when fire broke out during the construction of a Chicago water intake tunnel. Data indicates that approximately 60 workers died from burns and by drowning in the lake. Various safety legislations have been enacted to ensure the safety of workers as well as installation of appropriate fire escape mechanisms in risky working sites.

                                                                 Works Cited

Bowonder, B., and Harold A. Linstone. "Notes on the Bhopal accident: Risk analysis and multiple perspectives." Technological Forecasting and Social Change 32.2 (1987): 183-              202.

Corn, Jacqueline K. "Historical aspects of industrial hygiene-II. Silicosis." The American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 41.2 (1980): 125-133.

Magnuson, Harold J. "Health hazards in the construction industry." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 3.7 (1961): 321-325.


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