Awaiting for a robust safety law for workers - Jatin Verma

Awaiting for a robust safety law for workers

Updated on 11 September, 2019

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With increasing fatalities and injuries the author demand for robust safety laws by pointing out to the deficiencies present in the existing system. Neglect of Safe Work Environment

  • Even with years of robust economic growth, India’s story in promoting occupational and industrial safety remains weak.
  • The benefits of investing in industrial safety has been proven productive yet making work environments safer is accorded low priority.
  • Unfortunately, successive governments have not felt it necessary to ratify many fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) covering organised and unorganized sector workers’ safety, including the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981.
The consequence of this neglect is frequently seen in the form of a large number of fatalities and injuries, for example
  • Fire at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation gas facility in Navi Mumbai that leads to the deaths of four people, including a senior officer.
  • The tragedy at a firecracker factory in Batala that killed nearly two dozen people.
In spite of these consequences, policy makers tend to ignore the wider impact of such losses. Shortcomings in policy making The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 pays little attention to the sector-specific requirements of workers. For example, one of its major shortcomings is that the appointment of safety officers in the case of establishments with 500 workers, is left to the discretion of State governments. Similarly, the Factories Act which mandates the appointment of a bipartite committee in units that employ hazardous processes or substances has failed on the implementation level. Way Forward The new Code needs to be scrutinized by experienced parliamentarians, aided by fresh inputs from employees, employers, and experts. Industries that use hazardous processes and chemicals deserve particular attention, and the Code must have clear definitions, specifying limits of exposure for workers. A safe work environment is a basic right and any Compromise on safety can lead to extreme consequences that go beyond factories, and leave something that is etched in the nation’s memory as in the case of the Bhopal gas disaster. About the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code
  • The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Santosh Kumar Gangwar, on July 23, 2019.
  • The Code applies to establishments employing at least 10 workers, and to all mines and docks. It does not apply to apprentices.
  • Further, it makes special provisions for certain types of establishments and classes of employees, such as factories, mines, and building and construction workers.
  • The Code repeals and replaces 13 labor laws relating to safety, health and working conditions. These include the Factories Act, 1948, the Mines Act, 1952, and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.
Read More: Archaic Labour Laws Must Be Scrapped  |  Employment and Labour Reform  |  Economic Reforms: Liberalization

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