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Occupational Safety

Mains -GS3- Disaster Management

In the recent past, many fire accidents occurred in India such as a fire at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation gas facility in Navi Mumbai and fire at a firecracker factory in Batala, Punjab resulting in loss of life.

Fire Safety in India

1. India’s record in promoting occupational and industrial safety remains weak even with years of robust economic growth.

2. Making work environments safer is a low priority, although the productivity benefits of such investments have always been clear.

3. The consequences are frequently seen in the form of a large number of fatalities and injuries, but in a market that has a steady supply of labour, policymakers tend to ignore the wider impact of such losses.

Occupational Safety Norms

1. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019, recently introduced in the Lok Sabha to combine 13 existing laws pays little attention to the sector-specific requirements of workers.

2. For instance, the formation of safety committees and appointment of safety officers are applicable only to establishments with 500 workers, which also is left to the discretion of State governments. So, only a small fraction of industries appoint the safety officers.

3. The Factories Act currently mandates the appointment of a bipartite committee in units that employ hazardous processes or substances but with a number of exemptions.

Way Forward

1. A safe work environment is a basic right, and the government must develop a framework of guarantees.

2. Many fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) covering organized and unorganized sector workers’ safety, including the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 haven’t been ratified.

3. Government’s occupational safety Code seeks to amalgamate several areas of activity covered under these ILO instruments, but without the systemic reform that is necessary to empower workers.

4. The new Code needs to be carefully scrutinised in the parliament, with inputs from employees, employers, and experts.

5. Industries that use hazardous processes and chemicals needs particular attention, and the Code must have clear definitions, specifying limits of exposure for workers.

Compromising on safety can lead to extreme consequences that go beyond factories such as the Bhopal gas disaster.

Source: The Hindu