Study of past accidents give us information regarding the cause of accidents, the risks of hazardous substances, and their behaviour in fires. On most occasions, lessons learnt from history are forgotten, and inadequate safety knowledge lead to small mistakes, sometimes culminating into major disasters. In many cases, inadequate planning for such emergencies lead to escalation of the incident. Therefore, such case studies give people who have not had first hand experience, useful inputs derived from both the good and bad experiences. Since it is not always possible to carry out simulation of certain hazardous situations, the studies of such incidents are also a valuable source of information and guidance.

In this connection, a high powered committee set up by the Ministry of Petroleum, Government of India, in July 1989, to study major accidents in the industry, put forward one of their conclusions, thus

'the basic cause for most of the accidents was a lack of appreciation and awareness of the potential hazards and their likely consequences'.

In conclusion, it can be said that a good understanding of the inherent hazards, and the risks associated with the handling and processing of chemicals, give personnel the knowledge and confidence to handle chemicals and processes safely. This knowledge, coupled with information of what can wrong, greatly helps in minimizing errors and avoiding accidents. Hence, effective fire safety in the industry is closely linked to knowledge and understanding of the working personnel on two important aspects -


How and why a substance burns. Understanding of the combustion phenomenon and related factors, is the basis of fire safety. Good knowledge of various aspects of combustion, its products, effects and variations helps the concerned personnel to appreciate the risks it poses, and the confidence to handle small and medium incidents.

The conditions under which a substance will ignite. This deals basically with the properties of the substances which contribute to its fire hazard. Knowing these properties contributes to the safe handling, storage and transportation of the substance. At the same time, personnel are able to identify dangerous situations, take corrective actions and prevent mistakes, which could otherwise lead to accidents.