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MGSC14H3 Lecture Notes - Methyl Isocyanate, Sodium Hydroxide, Bronchus

Management (MGS)
Course Code
Peter P Constantinou

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Bhopal-Union Carbide
2000 people died, 200,000 injured in leak of methyl isocyanate gas from a Union
Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India
chemical = 500 times more toxic than cyanide
methyl isocyanate stored in a tank started boiling violently
cooling unit that should’ve switched on automatically had been
disabled for at least a year
manager + senior operator disregarded the readings on gauges
in the control room because they often malfunctioned
workers kept working even though their eyes were burning
because there were often minor leaks in the plant + many of the
workers = illiterate + unaware the chemical = deadly
Emergency valves on storage tank exploded + toxic gas = drifting
toward shantytowns
Not enough water pressure in company fire trucks to spray
escaping gas + neutralize the chemical
Vent scrubber meant to neutralize gas with caustic soda = shut
down for maintenance
Flare tower to burn off gas not work
Blinded, burns + lesions in nasal + bronchial passages
India govt. allowed US plant there to increase pesticide production to increase good
production to feed India’s huge population
o Pesticides = cut annual grain losses from 25% to 15% enough to feed 70
million more people for a full year
o Provides Indian workers with jobs
o Cheap labour, low taxes, few safety laws
The Indian plant = losing profit = cost cutting programs best operators replaced
by workers whose education = below that required by company manuals
US managers = sent engineers to India plant told to fix 10 major safety flaws
Indian managers said fixed it
Ethical dilemma: whether or not it is ethical for corporations like Union Carbide to
set up potentially dangerous factories or plants in countries that have low safety
Arguments for not ethical:
Violation of stakeholders (workers + those who live nearby) rights to life, health
and safety by not providing functional safety equipment, Union Carbide was
responsible for injuring 200,000 people and causing the deaths of 2000 people
Workers were not given informed consent illiterate workers were not told how
dangerous the chemicals they were working with were; in clinical research, failure
to obtain informed consent is considered a violation of ethical principles; this
should be true in the workplace as well
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