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India issues guidelines for post-lockdown factory restarts after fatal gas leak

Gas leak at LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam, India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has issued guidelines to ensure the safe restart of manufacturing facilities, after a weeks' long nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The guidelines come days after a gas leak killed 11 people and hospitalised 800 others at a plant in southern India operated by a subsidiary of South Korean petrochemicals maker LG Chem Ltd.

The cause, and whether it was related to the restart process, is being investigated.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in a statement issued late on Saturday, said companies should consider the first week of restarting operations as a test run and not attempt to achieve high production targets during the period.

It said the lockdown may have resulted in residual chemicals in pipelines, valves and other areas that could pose a risk. It also said companies must ensure staff are trained to identify abnormalities that could indicate potential system failures.

India, which has recorded about 63,000 coronavirus cases, imposed one of the world's strictest lockdown programmes from March 25 to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The lockdown is set to last until at least May 17.

Asia's third-largest economy, however, has recently begun to ease curbs in areas with fewer infections to restart economic activity that had ground to a halt, impacting the livelihoods of tens of millions of people.

The NDMA said factories must also carry out complete safety audits of entire plants before restarting activities.


(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Euan Rocha and Christopher Cushing)