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Industrial Occupational Health & Safety E-mail

Code No: TMS137 Price: Rs1950/- Category: Industrial Safety

 

1. PREAMBLE

Health at work and healthy work environment are amongst the most valuable assets of individuals, communities and countries. In the light of rapid economic growth and industrial progress in our country, it becomes imperative that safety and health at the workplace be given its due importance. However, with stress being laid on quick profits, safety aspects are generally ignored. It is only with the increase in the number of people killed and injured at work that the significance of the problem has been realised.

The lackadaisical attitude of the Indian policy makers has made the situation even worse. The enforcement of legislative measures and their active implementation is also very poor. So the need arises to develop a proper infrastructural status in India for occupational health and safety.

It is only recently that there has been a shift in approach to the problems of occupational health and safety. Instead of investigating accidents after they have occurred, taking a high toll of human life, it is now felt that preventing the occurrence of industrial disasters and occupational diseases is a much better idea.

So to ensure a self-enforcing environment, where assurance of occupational health and safety is the norm rather than an afterthought, a positive, strong infrastructure has to be developed. This necessitates a reorientation not only in the minds of the employers and the government, but also in the attitudes of the employees and the general public. An integrated approach is to be adopted to have a healthy and hazard free industrial environment.

2. OBJECTIVE AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The areas covered under this study are as follows:

- Existing policies/directives for Industrial Occupational Health and Safety Management in India and abroad.

- The norms/directives as being followed in India and abroad.

- Existing infrastructural/institutional mechanism in the country and abroad.

- The socio-techno-economic aspects related to the subject.

- The compensation for the loss of life and injury as practiced in the country and abroad.

- Inherent class differences (based on the earning capacity of the individual) reflected in differential compensation being offered for the same injury.

- The issues related to organized and unorganized sectors. The sectors where the Industrial Occupational Health and Safety Acts do not apply.

- The workman compensation acts.

- The safety standards for machinery, plant and equipment etc. “Safe fail design” (Not fail-safe) aspect to minimize the industrial occupational health and safety hazards.

- Role being played by infrastructure and institutional mechanisms.

- Identification of factors to enhance the implementation and the impact of Industrial occupational health & safety management directives/ policies.

- At management level.

- At workman level.

- At institutional mechanism level

- The recommended action plan towards “Self-Enforcing Environment” identifying the agencies involved.

3. METHODOLOGY

The study was undertaken in three phases:

i. A desk study of all available material on industrial safety and risk management covering the relevant areas, viz., legal, health, economic and labour, was carried out.

ii. A detailed study based on personal interviews and discussions was carried out. A seminar was conducted jointly by CDC and Chanakya Consultants Pvt. Ltd., which was well attended by the concerned authorities.

iii. Economic analysis and social evaluation of diverse aspects covering legal and social parameters were carried out. The aspirations of labor with expectations of management and requirements of the institutions were dovetailed.


4. INDIAN INDUSTRIAL SCENARIO

Industrial Scenario

With the growth of industries in India, the number of occupational injuries and deaths have also increased. Introduction of hazardous machinery, toxic chemicals, high rise construction, unprotected machinery, poisoning and burns form manufacture of chemicals, etc., are the main cause of injuries and deaths in the Indian industries – both organised and unorganized sectors. The condition of occupational health and safety in the inorganised sector is more grim as compared to that in the organized sector.

The labour inspectorates are ill-equipped and do not have technically and professionally competent manpower for inspecting, reporting on prevailing work conditions in the industry and to monitor occupational health hazards.

Health Scenario

In India, occupational accidents, traditional physical ad ergonomic hazards and occupational diseases are important factors influencing the health of the industrial workers.

Diseases like byssinosis and pneumoconiosis are rampant among the industrial workers in India. Among other types of occupational diseases prevalent in India are diseases of the circulatory system, digestive system, urinary tracts, nervous system and sense organs (hearing loss, CNS effects), blood diseases, etc.

However, the present health for the Indian workers are not adequate enough to cope with the ever-increasing occupational diseases and health problems. The only health facilities offered specifically to the workers are the health centres under the Employees’ State Insurance Scheme.

Indian Legislative Measures

A large number of labour legislations have been enacted for the promotion and protection of worker’s welfare. The factories Act, 1948 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923, are specifically directed towards occupational health and safety matters.

The Factories Act aims at ensuring adequate safety measures and promoting the health and welfare of the workers employed in factories. The Workmen’s Compensation Act makes the employer liable for providing compensation to his employees in case of occupational diseases or personal injuries and prescribes the manner in which his liability can be ascertained. The Act provides for cheaper and quicker mode of disposal of disputes relating to compensation through special proceedings.

The Employees’ State Insurance Act provides for cash benefits and/or medical facilities to insured employees in case of sickness, maternity, disablement and death due to injury.

Despite all these statutes, the health and safety scenario in the Indian industry remains unsatisfactory. Workers in the unorganized sector are scarcely able to take advantage of the provisions under these acts.

The Social Aspects of Occupational Health and Safety

Variations in economic structure, social set-up, conditions of work, quality of the work environment all have an impact on the standard of occupational safety and health. As such the social aspects have been considered while assessing the health and safety status of the industrial workers. There are also special occupational settings and types of enterprises, economic activities and undertakings in which work and workplace deviate substantially from the norm. Major changes in social and economic systems result in weakening of the infrastructure for occupational health and safety.

The Legal Parameters

The basic policy guidelines for occupational safety and health are stated in the Constitution of India. Accordingly, a number of Acts have been enacted to ensure that all the workers are provided with a working place which is safe and healthy. However, due to overlapping jurisdiction and lack of uniformity in approach, the Acts enacted at various points of time and enforced by different agencies have created serious problems of implementation of theses Acts. Various industrial activities, especially in the unorganized sector do not have sufficient legislative coverage to protect safety and health of those employed therein.

The concept of occupational health and safety has not been accepted by the industrial workers and managements in India. Though there are various regulations present, most of these are, however, good on paper only, as neither workers, nor their representative unions, are fully aware to take advantage of these.

The Compensation Mode

Compensation to an injured worker in the form of cash benefits under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Under the Employees’ State Insurance Act also compensation is in the form of cash benefits. The benefits covered by theses Acts are: Sickness Benefit, Maternity Benefit, Disablement Benefit, Dependents’ Benefit, Funeral Expenses, Rehabilitation Allowance and Standard benefit. Compared to WCA, the ESI Act is the latest and has a wider coverage and is more exhaustive. It also provides for more compensation than what a workman would get under Workmen’s Compensation Act.

5. OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH STATUS IN OTHER COUNTIES.

The developed countries of the West have a better occupational safety and health infrastructure as compared to India. The institutional mechanism is much stronger thee with the enforcement agencies having wide-reaching powers.

USA

USA has a well-developed infrastructure to monitor and coordinate occupational health and safety activity, the occupational safety and health Act (OSHA) of 1970 lays down in clear detail the rules to be followed for every aspect of occupational health and safety. Different occupation such as manufacturing, construction, long shoring, agriculture, law and medicine, charity and disaster relief, organized labour and private education are covered by this Act.

OSHA promulgates legally enforceable standards laying down the procedures to be followed. A special characterized of this act is the provision of free construction assistance to employers funded by OSHA.

The aim of workers’ compensation in USA is to remove the entire burden of an employment-related injury or dearth from the individual worker and the worker’s family and to impose it upon the employer- employers either have to contribute to a fund established by the state or have to purchase insurance to cover the risks.

Laws providing workers, compensation coverage do n9ot cover all types of injuries some occupational diseases, caused by years of exposure to hazardous substances. Are covered by federal and state industrial disease compensation laws, which are separate from workers’ compensation . such as federal black lung benefits Acts of 1972. compensation is usually paid in the from of weekly or monthly payments.

GERMANY

German laws on occupational health and safety have been influenced greatly by international legal sources, for the federal Government with its concurrent legislative power is responsible for the national regulations on occupation safety and health . A number of technical measures have been laid down for the protection of safety and health.

The accident prevention regulations constitute an important part of the technical measures in the field of occupational safety and health. On the basis of the authorization in the Reich insurance code the accident prevention regulations are adopted by the accident by the accident insurance funds. The accident insurance of the competent industrial accident insurance institution is liable for personal injuries regardless of any fault on the employer’s part as far these injuries have been caused been caused by an industrial accident as defined by the Reich insurance Code.

The Industrial Code provides the framework for defining employer’s duties in the field of occupational safety and health. The first important approach to nationwide statutory regulations on occupational safety and health was the 1968 Act on Technical Equipment. The Chemicals Act of 1980 not only covers occupational safety and health but also includes environmental protection.

The uniform and comprehensive Act on Generic Engineering regulates the genetic engineering projects in research laboratories and in production facilities as well as the release of genetically manipulated organisms and their putting into circulation. The Explosives Act also includes occupational safety and health provisions.

CANADA

In Canada, every province as well as the federal government has its own occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation. There is also the Workplace Hazardous Material Information System which is a comprehensive plan for providing information on hazardous materials that are intended for use in workplaces.

The Federal Government has the responsibility for the health and safety of its own employees, federal corporations and workers in certain industries. Approximately 10% of the Canadian workforce falls under the OH&S jurisdiction of the Federal Government.

A principal underlying occupational health and safety legislation in each Canadian jurisdiction is the Internal Responsibility System-every worker is responsible for his own safety as well as for the safety of the co-workers. The formation of Joint Health and Safety Committees is an important aspect of the occupational health and safety infrastructure in Canada.

SWEDEN

In Sweden the concept of working environment is defined more broadly than in most countries. The Work Environment Act, 1978, presents its objective and outlines systems, techniques and allocation of responsibilities for the working environment in general terms. The law is supplemented by detailed rules issued by the National board of Occupational Safety and Health in the form of ordinances and general advice.

The Swedish Working Life Fund provides grants to employers for the development of better working environment, reforms in work systems and rehabilitation of employees.

The Work Environment Fund aims at improving conditions a work by playing a leading role in financing research and development, as well as information and training. The National Institute of Occupational Health is Sweden’s largest single research body in the working environment field. The Swedish Centre for Working Life also conducts research on workplace issues.

Under Swedish law, a person suffering from an injury at work receives compensation for loss of earnings and reimbursement of expenses, partly through statutory social insurance and partly through labour market insurance. The forms of social insurance primarily concerned with cases of injury at work are those provided by the National Insurance Act (AFL), the Work Injury Insurance Act (LAF) and the Labour Market No-fault Liability Insurance (TFA). TFA pays compensation to an injured worker regardless of who is to blame for the injury. Under TFA compensation is also paid for disfigurement and permanent disadvantage.

4 THE SOCIO-TECHNO-ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

Better health and safety standard in the workplace comes as a byproduct of the industrial community’s and the administration’s enlightened efforts in regard to personnel and industrial relations. This in turn is influenced by various social, technical and economic factors.

The standard of infrastructure or rather the lack of infrastructure in countries like India influences the occupational health and safety standards. Poverty, alongwith illiteracy and powerlessness influence occupational injuries, It has been estimated that the losses to the national economy causes by all accidents may amount to 10-2-% of the Gross National product in some countries[5]. The importance of occupational diseases and accidents is also reflected in economic costs to the individual victim and family, to the medical care system and to the society.

Cost analysis is an important part of a comprehensive approach to occupational accident and disease control that also weighs ethical, social, political, and legal considerations. However, there are various limitations inherent in estimating the economic costs of injuries. While assessing the economic implications of health promotion at work, it is necessary to examine the nature of the costs incurred by health care for workers and by lost productivity and absenteeism due to illness or injury.

Socio-economic development, economic structure, level of technology, geography and climatic conditions, demography of the working population, and the degree of development of occupational health and safety policies and infrastructures all have their impact on the health and safety of the workers.

Numerous demographic changes can be noticed in the working population in India. The rising unemployment has had its impact on the health and safety standards of the workers. The increase in life expectancy has resulted in the growth of the older section of the workforce. With increasing female participation in the workforce, there is a growing need to address the specific occupational health and safety needs of the worm workers. Child labour is a serious problem in India and its effects on the health of children cannot be ignored. The importance of the unorganized sector in the industrial landscape of the country and its impact on occupational health and safety should not be underestimated.

Due to economic constraints, developing countries like India. Are sometimes compelled to use cheaper equipment and processes which do not meet minimum safety requirements. Technology and chemicals banned in the developed, exporting countries are exported to countries where stringent safety and health regulations either do not exist or are not enforced. The transfer of unshielded dangerous machinery and hazardous chemicals and substances have had an adverse effect on occupational diseases and accidents among workers in the recipient countries.

Frequently, the skills and training required for operating and maintaining imported technologies are not transferred with them. There are instances of the transfer of hazardous and obsolete technologies from industrialized countries to developing countries. Although various guidelines and conventions have been prepared by international organizations to prevent such hazardous transfer, they have not been effectively implemented.

The regulations and standards stipulating the minimum level of safety and health at work play an important part in improving working conditions since they apply to all workplaces and all employed persons. However, while designing safety standards the special needs of vulnerable groups like women worker, handicapped workers or older workers are rarely considered.

5. ANALYSIS OF PRIMARY SURVEY

The survey carried out among the workers and managements of some industrial units helped in evaluating the occupational health and safety status prevalent in the country. Occupational health services especially in the unorganized sector are barely operative. Health and safety aspect takes a backseat in Indian industry.


The seminar helped in ascertaining the views of leading professionals, bureaucrats and academicians working in the field of industrial health and safety. Various factors responsible for low standards of safety in the country were identified.

Upgrading of the legislations and making the penalty provisions stringent was recommended. The importance of occupational medicine was recognized and stress was laid on maintenance of medical records. A comprehensive database on occupational accidents and diseases, insurance alms and compensations paid, and safety standard is also essential.

As far as increasing the awareness of workers and their representatives is concerned, a continuing and structures general workers education programme on occupational safety and health aspects needs to be developed.

6. CONCLUSIONS

Occupational health and safety is not limited in scope only to prevent and control specific occupational diseases. Worker’s health and safety programmes should deal with the complete relationship between work and total health of man. However, the present occupational health and safety infrastructure in India has not been able to achieve theses objectives.

The Indian legislations fail to consider the numerous problems existing in India industry. The legislations fail to reflect the importance of attitudes, efficiency of the organizational system and the capacities or performance of working people. The present state of Indian industry does not provide any incentive to the employers/entrepreneurs to invest in safety measures. There is little awareness about safety aspects among the Indian trade unions. The small unorganized industrial units spread over the length and breadth of the country are not covered by any occupational health services.

7. RECOMMENDATIONS

To usher in a self-enforcing environment in industrial occupational health and safety, a high degree of planning, preparation and a strong will of the workers, managements and trade unions are needed.

Proper implementation of the relevant laws depends on the availability of information, organizational strength of the implementing body and the judiciary, knowledge of the cost of occupational health and safety measures. Coordination between the Ministries of Health, Environment and Industry and the enforcement agencies is necessary for effective utilization of the labour laws. Establishing safety standards, regulations, and emergency care procedures is also important.

Trade unions and workers’ associations should strive to develop workers education programmes on occupational health and safety. Workers have to be educated on the importance of safety and prevention measures.

It is here that the health sector can help by launching a public campaign on occupational health and safety. Workers’ associations should develop alliances with non-government voluntary agencies working on safety and health problems. In this way, facts regarding unsafe working conditions can be brought to their attention for education of the general public.

Research funding needs to be increased for studying accidents in the small-scale and unorganized industry sector. Both government and management should institute studies of options available to improve safety in the working environment. Occupational health services for people employed in small-scale industries need to be developed.

In view of the constraints on financial and human resources in our country, a self-enforcing environment on occupational safety and health should involve effective net working of the existing educational, research and information resources, programmes and institutions.

Empowerment of the community is an important aspect of a strategy for self-enforcing environment. For the unorganized sector, the community-based approach may be relevant by providing training, information and expert advisory support to the workers.

The awareness among politicians, the authorities, employers, workers and the general public of occupational health and safety issues need to be increased by using various ways to disseminate information. This would create a basis for strengthening political will to create the prerequisites for improvement if working conditions, and thereby workers’ health. A system of participation and positive incentives can also help in ensuring the development of health ad safety at the work place.

8. ACTION PLAN

To ensure improved standards of occupational health and safety and progress towards a self-enforcing environment, a multidimensional strategy needs to be adopted.

The first step is to assess the occupational health situation and develop a national manpower policy accordingly. This requires assessing the present demographic situation and health facilities and comparing it to the health needs of the working population. At the national level, recent data on occupational accidents and diseases and on recent successful experience is to be collected showing the feasibility of effective action.

Legislation on occupational safety and health has to be reviewed, in particular for defining the responsibilities of employers, the duties and rights of workers, and the role of inspectors for securing effective reporting of occupational accidents and diseases. Resources for action oriented training in risk assessment and control in priority industries and sectors has to be mobilized. Various promotional
Activities also are to be organized to raise awareness about safety at the workplace.

At the enterprise level a company safety policy should be established. Clear responsibilities for overseeing and implementing safety and health action at all levels of management should be assigned. Organization of a safety and health committee in each enterprises and at each work site should be made compulsory.

Institutions are to be “critical catalyst” in a safety and health and serve as the backbone to create a self-regulating safety culture. Cooperation of government agencies and safety and health advisory and training institutions is essential. In particular, the different ministries should closely coordinate with each other in extending occupational health services to all workplaces, with the active involvement of employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Awareness of the needs and objectives of occupational health and safety among the public at large, decision-makers, politicians, employers and workers is of utmost importance for successful implementation of these strategies. Finally, occupational health ad safety has to be recognized as a basic element of the principle of sustainable development.