During his address to the employees, our Corporate Safety Manager said, “Safety is not for living, it is for life”
As a person, who has spent almost three decades working for the oil industry, I can state with some authority that this statement is true in every sense of the word.
While reflecting on many of the incidents that taught me this lesson in a hard way, one experience that I went through stands out.
The spring of 1988 saw a new spring in my relations with a young engineer RS Ambati. He was a lean, lanky young lad. He seemed extremely eager and forthcoming.
Among his many qualities, it was Ambati’s passion tenacity to do well for himself and the team was something that attracted me. We soon became good friends. Together we learned the ropes of a very demanding job.
Ambati was a very supportive during my formative days, more than willing to extend his helping hand. He never lost any opportunity to learn new things and gain experience. Although he started as a hesitant beginner, Ambati soon transformed himself in to a brilliant Maintenance Engineer.
During the course of many a personal banter, I learnt that Ambati hailed from a very poor family. Ambati became the first ever, graduate engineer in his family. He was the brightest hope for the future of his family and future of his generation.
He soon got married and was blessed with three daughters.
It was during early 1997, while we had just closed for the day and leaving for our homes, the fire alarm began to blow. Ambati was out of the Plant gate. Although the fire was in the yet to be commissioned additional tankage facility which was out of the peripheral limits of our refinery, Ambati felt a call of duty to support the fire-fighting effort.
The new tank farm, which was yet under construction, was separated from the refinery by a sea water canal. There was just a small walkway connecting the tank farm and the refinery.
When Ambati reached the walkway, he found that the walk-way was congested as fire fighters were moving their fire-fighting gear through the walk-way. Due to his eagerness to fight the fire, Ambati decided to get into the canal and walk across wading through the water. He walked through the canal and reached the point of fire.
Immediately he took hold of a fire hose reel and started fighting the fire along with the firemen. They systematically doused the flames and started moving to the epicenter of the fire to extinguish it completely.
Ambati did not realize that there was Naphtha floating on the water of the canal and that his clothes and shoes were soaked in oil.
As he approached the epicenter of the fire, suddenly his shoes caught fire. Being close to the canal with water flowing steadily. He followed his instinct, that the water in the canal can help him douse the flame on his clothing.
He jumped into the water and there was a huge explosion. Ambati was swallowed by the engulfing flames. The fire technician who was close to him, tried to douse the flames. He too suffered severe burns.
Both of them struggled for their lives in the burn ward. The company flew in a battery of burn specialists from Mumbai. However, despite the best efforts of the doctors, both the boys succumbed to their injuries.
The company lost a brilliant engineer, I lost a friend, but his family lost everything. They lost their breadwinner, their father, their husband and their son.
A pall of gloom fell over the Refinery. It took us months to get over the loss of two colleagues. But life will never remain the same for the families of these two fine gentlemen.
Safety is Indeed the Key!
Whether at work or at home apply your good intention for accident prevention.
Because, Safety is not found in the absence of danger but in the presence of mind.