Stink over gas leaks brings insurance plan

Ang Thong: All factories nationwide will be required to purchase third-party insurance for accidents under a new ministerial regulation due to come into effect within the next three months.

The move came as the Industrial Works Department yesterday ordered closure of one of Thai Rayon Plc's plants in Ang Thong following a leakage last week of sulphur dioxide, causing complaints from nearby residents about irritated eyes and breathing passages.

Individuals will be able to claim insurance if there is proof that the damage was done by a factory, said department director-general Nattapon Nattasomboon.The department will discuss with insurance companies the minimum amount of coverage, which will be required for 217,000 factories, he added.

About 77,000 factories that require operating permits will be among the first group to be affected, Mr Nattapon said.

The department found that factory accidents increased by 46% in fiscal 2013 ended last Sept 30, with 150 accidents causing 23 deaths and 75 injuries. For the first four months of the 2014 fiscal year, 44 incidents were reported.

Industry officials passed a warning to Thai Rayon last June after receiving complaints about a rotten egg odour caused by hydrogen sulfide, a colourless gas. The company makes viscose staple fibre.

Factory law limits the amount of hydrogen sulfide at levels of 100 parts per million, but human beings can detect the smell at 0.005 ppm, said Sawai

Lojanasupareuk, the department director overseeing the petrochemical industry.

As Thai Rayon is not acting against the law, the department has merely asked the company to make improvements.

The gas leakage needs to be stopped by March 30.

"It's like when you fart. If a lot of people fart at the same time, you don't die, but it stinks real bad," said Mr Sawai.

Thai Rayon president Prassan Sipani said a recovery plant for the reduction of odours is being planned.

It expects 35% to 40% revenue growth for the 2014 fiscal year starting April 1, as its three plants have resumed production after a four-month closure due to union strikes.

It reported revenue of 12 billion baht in its fiscal 2013, with a net loss of 20.6 million due to unfavourable circumstances.

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