It was in early June a worker of JSW Steel's largest plant in Vijayanagar, Karnataka was infected with coronavirus. His mother had got it first during her visit to hometown in Tamil Nadu. Without informing the management, he continued working at the plant, where 23,000 people work. By the time the infection got detected, it spread like a wild fire. In the test conducted by the local authorities, it was revealed that over 700 people had been affected by the fatal virus by then.
Seshagiri Rao, joint managing director and group CFO, JSW Steel, says that it was quite challenging to continue the operation in that environment. In April, JSW Steel had operated at overall 38 per cent of its 18 million tonne capacity -- 12 MT is in Vijayanagar alone. It had increased the capacity utilisation to 83 per cent in May, but fell to 76 per cent in June as Vijayanagar production had been affected. The JSW township turned out to become an infection cluster.
"We have immediately hospitalised the people infected with virus," says Rao. JSW Steel has Jindal Sanjeevani Multispeciality Hospital in Bellari and it has been converted into a COVID-19 hospital to accommodate the workers.
The next step was identifying the primary and secondary contacts. "We have quarantined every contact to stop the virus from spreading," says Rao.
The third step was the most important for the continuity of the production. The management has identified 13,000 critical employees required to run the steel factory. Of them, 9,000 employees were already living in the JSW township and the remaining 4,000 -- who were living in Hospet and Bellari area -- were asked to shift to the township. "We have provided bachelor accommodation to all, using the vacant apartments," Rao adds.
The company sealed the factory after critical employees moved in. "We have completely stopped the employees from going out and any outsider to come in," Rao explains. The company provided food, medicine and other necessary support to the workers inside the plants. "With this we have been able to contain the virus and bring the operational normalcy," Rao says.
Rao says the management is relieved now as 80 per cent infected workers have been discharged from the hospital and the remaining 140 workers will be discharged within days. The steel maker has been able to turn the tide without any casualty.
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