Health and Safety

Understanding Occupational Safety and Health in India

A massive percentage of 63.6% individuals are of working age group, out of which, 90 percent are currently working in the informal economies of agricultural and service sector. Only a minimal number of 10 percent is working under some organized sectors like industry, mining, etc. In recent times, the nation has also witnessed the rise of some new service industries like IT and BPO. With a population exceeding 1.2 billion in numbers, India is not only one of the largest growing democracy and economy in the world but also a land full of opportunities.

The OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) scenario in India is complex, owing to some prominent challenges faced by the industrial setup. Some common causes of distress are:

• Huge rate of workers in the unorganized sector
• Poor work conditions
• Availability of cheap resources
• Marginal public spend on health
• Unreliable implementation of policies/legislation
• Unrealistic OSH data
• Multicity statutory controls
• Infrastructural problem
• Lack of OSH professionals.

Even though health and safety of the employees is a crucial aspect of the economy and national growth, it is, unfortunately, the biggest failure of industrial sphere in the ground reality. The Constitution of India has legally specified provisions of Article 24, 39e, 39f and Article 42 for ensuring the best implementations of occupational health and safety of workers. Apart from this, the union list is also responsible for managing regulations of labor and safety in mines and oil fields. Here are some quick facts about the OSH structure of India. Have a look!
1. The Indian Ministry of Labour, along with the Labour Departments of the States and the Union Territories are collectively responsible for the safety and health of workers in India.

2. Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) and Directorate General of Factory Advice Services and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) assists the technical understanding of OSH setup in India to the Ministry.

3. In the year 2009, the country adopted the National Policy on OSH at work but sadly, it is yet to be implemented.

4. Some of the major occupational risks listed by OSH data are accidents, pneumoconiosis, musculoskeletal injuries, chronic obstructive lung diseases; pesticide poisoning and noise induced hearing loss.

5. Along with the current working setup, OSH data should also include coverage of working lifestyle in the unorganized sector, spread industrial awareness to stakeholders and develop OSH infrastructure and professionals.

6. The Factories Act 1948, which is the main health and safety legislation in India, is closely adopted from the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The central aim of this legislature is to streamline the occupational safety and health duties of factory owners towards staff.

7. Similarly, the Workers Compensation Act takes care of the injured employee at work so that the person receives adequate aid as in medical care, wages, on-job-injury insurance, etc. In line with this act, the Employees’ State Insurance Act works to protect the right of the worker during illness, disabilities, medical emergencies like maternity, and so on.

The Ground Reality of Occupational Health and Safety in India
Do you know in India there are only 21 institutions in total that are capable of training 500 OSH specialists? The shortage of safety officers, factory inspectors, and medical inspectors has remained consistently low and even below the optimal levels. All across the nation, there are about 1,000 qualified OSH professionals and 100 qualified hygienists. Since 90 percent of Indian working class is contributing their services to the informal sector and the major portion of their income is neither taxed nor monitored by the government, it become relatively difficult for the government to have a successful implementation of OSH goals in reality. The informal sector is more vulnerable to hazards and occupational diseases and unless and until, the reality of this sector will be included in the OSH data, the truth will always remain partial, incorrect and unjustified.

India can only achieve the desired OSH scenario by spreading the right safety conscious across all the different sectors of industries. Safety training to the uneducated and least experienced class is the most important aspect of safety consciousness. Some of the common challenges of OSH training in India are:
• Diversified languages and regional dialects.
• Mismatch in the level of understanding of concepts.
• Regular attendance in safety classes.
• Missing examples of practical-based training.
• No reward-based system to high performing labours.
• Low wages which lead to zero motivation.
• No social protection.
• Differential levels of education, professional and vocational skills.
At IAC, we walk hand in hand with the best EHSE professionals situated all across the globe to improve the OSH standards in India. The sense of safety as implemented through the legislature and training is what the nation needs right now.


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