There is need to have systems, laws, education, commitment and compliances in place to ensure that individuals in India are safe at place of residence, place of work, while commuting, while enjoying leisure and while undertaking any other activity, says Dr Rajen Mehrotra.
The Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India with the support International Labour Organization (ILO), Delhi Office organised a National Tripartite Workshop for Validating the Draft National Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Profile of India on November 23-24, 2017 in New Delhi. The National Tripartite Workshop was preceded by Tripartite Regional Workshops held at Faridabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kanpur, and Chennai in the month of August 2017 to obtain information and views of the tripartite constituents on developing the National OSH Profile. The objective of the National Workshop was to validate the document that has been prepared by The Directorate General of Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), which is the technical arm of the Ministry of Labour & Employment (MOLE), Government of India on matters concerned with safety, health, productivity and working conditions in factories and ports. The document is available on DGFASLI website (www.dgfasli.nic.in) for suggestions from stakeholders before the same is finalised.
There is need to have systems, laws, education, commitment and compliances in place to ensure that individuals in India are safe at place of residence, place of work, while commuting, while enjoying leisure and while undertaking any other activity. It is better to be safe than to be sorry, hence the need to ensure that all the activities performed by individuals are not only safe but do not affected the individual by way of any occupational disease.
Countries, desiring to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on “Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No 187)” need to develop a National OSH Profile, identify gaps in the country and come forward with a national programme to bridge the gap.
The present exercise is an effort on the part of The Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India to identify the gaps and work in the direction of bridging the same. The draft document brings out the state of art situation on OSH, identifies the present status of OSH in the country and steps to be taken for improvement.
Coverage of the document The document along with annexure and tables is over 200 pages. It is a fairly exhaustive document and covers the following items along with details under each of the following headings 1.Laws and regulations on OSH 2.Authority or body, responsible for OSH 3.Mechanisms for ensuring compliance including the system of inspection 4.Arrangements to promote, at the level of the undertaking, cooperation between management, workers and their representatives 5.National tripartite advisory body addressing OSH issues 6.Information and advisory services on OSH 7.Provision of OSH training 8.Occupational health services including industrial hygiene 9.Researches in OSH 10.Mechanism for the collection and analysis of data on occupational injuries and diseases and their causes 11.Collaboration with insurance or social security schemes covering occupational injuries and diseases 12.Support mechanisms for disadvantageous group of workers 13.Support mechanisms for women workers 14.Coordination and collaboration mechanisms at national and enterprise levels including national programme review mechanisms 15.Technical standards, codes or practices and guidelines on OSH 16.Educational and awareness-raising arrangements to enhance preventive safety and health culture, including promotional initiatives 17.Specialised technical, medical and scientific institutions with linkages to various aspects of OSH, including research institutes and laboratories concerned with OSH 18.Personnel engaged in the area of OSH, such as safety and health officers, safety engineers, and occupational physician’s and hygienists 19.Occupational injury and disease statistics and events 20.Industry-specific policies and programmes to hazardous occupations 21.Mechanisms to prevent industrial disaster protect environment and promote public safety 22.OSH policies and programmes of organizations of employers and workers. 23.Regular or ongoing activities related to OSH, including international collaboration 24.Data addressing demography, literacy, economy and employment, as available, as well as any other relevant information 25.Gap analysis of existing national OSH systems and recommendations of action points for including in the national OSH programme
Issues of gaps in national OSH profile The document on the DGFASLI website before the commencement of The National Tripartite Workshop for Validating the Draft National Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Profile held on November 23-24, 2017 in New Delhi has identified the gaps which are listed below. Some of these are listed below and may go through modifications before the final document is released by The Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India.
1.A comprehensive legislation on OSH covering all the sectors of economic activities which are otherwise not getting covered under any legislation on OSH, is not available. Apart from the existing OSH-related legislations for the four sectors, i.e., the manufacturing, mining, ports and construction, legislation to cover the other sectors such as agriculture sector, service sector, transport sector, etc., are not available leaving a huge gap
2.The Factories Act, 1948 is a central enactment for securing the safety, health and welfare of workers working in the factories. Under the enabling provisions of the Act, the state governments are empowered to frame their respective state factories rules and enforce both the Act and the Rules in their states. The state governments through their Inspectorates of Factories /Directorates of Industrial Safety and Health under the labour department’s enforce the provisions of the Act and the rules. The manpower strength of these Inspectorates /Directorates is in adequate to effectively enforce the Act and the Rules. Many posts under these Inspectorates /Directorates are lying vacant due to which the enforcement activity is adversely affected. Further, central rules under the Factories Act, 1948 are not available which need to be framed and enforced by an authority under the central government for the factories under the administrative control of the central government and public sector undertakings.
3.The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 and Regulations, 1990 framed there under are being enforced only in major ports by DGFASLI. For the ports, other than the major 12 ports, the state governments are required to frame their respective state regulations and enforce the provisions of the both the Act and the Regulations in these ports. However, till date none of the states have framed their regulations for enforcement in these ports. Since, these ports are also handling huge quantities of cargo, including dangerous goods, the absence of regulation on safety and health of the workers and its enforcement is a major gap.
4.The Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act (BOCW) , 1996, is being enforced by the Labour Commissioners at the Centre and at the State Level. The safety and health provisions under the Act being highly technical in nature is not being enforced in true letter and spirit. Hence, DGFASLI may be entrusted with enforcement and other consequential action for occupational safety and health matter under BOCW Act, 1996 at central level and State Inspectorates of Factories /Directorates of Industrial Safety and Health at the state government level.
5.The National Policy on Health and Environment at Workplace (NPSHEW) requires providing for research in the field of safety, health and environment at workplace, including the social and psychological factors involved, and by developing innovative methods, techniques including computer aided Risk Assessment Tools, and approaches for dealing with safety, health and environment at workplace. At present only limited institutes in the country are available for research and development in the field of OSH. Also the institutions are not fully equipped for carrying out their activities effectively.
6.As per the National Policy on Health and Environment at Workplace , data capturing related to OSH on national basis from all the sectors is an issue for long time as presently capturing data is only for sectors like manufacturing, mining, ports and construction only.
7.Training Institutes at national level on OSH are not available for imparting the training to workers from formal and informal sectors. Such training institutes are at present not identified in the country. Online course in the field of occupational safety and health is not available for benefitting the employed workers.
8.The National Policy on Health and Environment at Workplace requires every Ministry or Department to work out their detailed policy relevant to their working environment as per the guidelines on the National Policy. So far Ministries or Departments have not worked out their policy in line with the NPSHEW.
9.While the National Policy on Health and Environment at Workplace provides for establishment of suitable schemes for subsidy and provision of loans to enable effective implementation of the policy. However, such a scheme has not been launched till date.
10.National Policy on Health and Environment at Workplace requires for providing suitable accreditation machinery to recognise institutions, professionals and services relating to safety, health and environment at workplace for uniformity and greater coverage as also authenticating safe management system.
11.The National Policy on Health and Environment at Workplace provides for specifically focusing on occupational diseases and developing a framework for its prevention and control as well as develop technical standards and guidelines for the same. Though such standards are available to a limited extent, but not easily accessible and available to the industry.
12.There is need to provide for suitably teaching inputs on safety, health and environment at work place in schools, technical, medical, professional and vocational courses and distance education programme. At present teaching inputs on safety and health are not included in the teaching curricula in schools, technical, medical, professional and vocational courses and distance education programme.
13.There is need for adopting Occupational Safety and Health training curricula in workplace and industry programmes. Such training institutes are at present not identified in the country.
14.The agriculture sector is lacking on legislation on safety and health for the workers working in this sector. There are certain Acts on occupational safety and health pertaining to certain equipments or substances, viz., the Dangerous Machines Regulation Act, the Insecticides Act. The enforcement authorities are not identified as per these Acts and hence are not being enforced. The agriculture sector is the largest sector of economic activity and needs to be regulated for safety and health aspects.
15.Industries under MSME do not have any legislation to cover the safety and health of the workers.
Conclusion The Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India will sooner or later finalise the National Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Profile of India and release the same, so that it can move in the direction of ratifying ILO Convention 187. We hope that the Government of India comes forward with a meaningful National Programme which reduces Occupational Injuries and Diseases and improves the occupational safety and health of the large number of persons working in the agriculture sector, informal sector that presently have very limited coverage and insurance.
The article is authored by Dr Rajen Mehrotra, who is immediate Past President of Industrial Relations Institute of India (IRII), Former Senior Employers’ Specialist for South Asian Region with International Labour Organization (ILO) and Former Corporate Head of HR with ACC Ltd and Former Corporate Head of Manufacturing and HR with Novartis India Ltd.
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