View Full Version : Does India have an OSHA Equivalent?

12-06-07, 09:23 AM
I know it is not slave labor -- it is cheap labor -- BUT ......... Basic Worker Safety???

An NY Times Slide Show with Audio (3 minutes)

From Ladies of Molten Metal (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/20071126_MANHOLES_FEATURE/index.html)

From INDIA - HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK (http://www.amrc.org.hk/alu/Alu39/013907.html)

India has a very poor health and safety record. Much legislation exists to protect workers rights and health but they are not implemented properly and only an elite of workers enjoy the benefits. Of the total workforce only 8.8 percent are organised. The workforce is abundant, low skilled and easily available and the high rate of unemployment makes them susceptible to exploitation. Getting work is more important than the hazards involved.
Constitutional Provision for Occupational Safety and Health
Article 24 – No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in other hazardous employment. Article 39 (e & f) - The state shall in particular direct its policy towards securing
e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age and strength;
f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Article 42 – The state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
National Policy
Safety and health occupies a very significant position in India’s constitution which prohibits employment of children under 14 in factories, mines and in hazardous occupations. Policy aims to protect the health and strength of all workers. It prevents employment in occupations unsuitable for the age and strength of the workers. It is the policy of the state to make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work. The constitution provides a broad framework under which policies and programmes for occupational health and safety could be established.
National Legislation
Legislation provides an essential foundation for safety. To be meaningful and effective legislation should be reviewed and updated regularly as scientific knowledge develops.
India has had legislation on occupational health and safety for over 50 years. India was under British rule in the 19th and the early 20th century, hence the principal health and safety laws are based on the British Factories Act. The Factories Act, 1948 is amended from time to time, and especially after the Bhopal Gas disaster [See box], which could have been prevented. This demanded a shift from dealing with disaster (or disease) to prevent its occurrence. The Factories (Amendment) Act came into force on 1 December 1987.
Other laws have also been framed for workers’ welfare.
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OSH Legislation

The Factories Act 1948, amended 1954, 1970, 1976, 1987
The Mines Act, 1952
The Dock workers (safety, health and welfare) Act, 1986
The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
The Explosives Act, 1884
The Petroleum Act, 1934
The Insecticide Act, 1968
The Indian Boilers Act, 1923
The Indian Electricity Act, 1910
The Dangerous Machines (Regulations) Act, 1983
The Indian Atomic Energy Act, 1962
The Radiological Protection Rules, 1971
The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989 </td></tr> </tbody></table>
Factories Act
On health this law requires employers:

to ensure cleanliness of the workplace;
make effective arrangement for treatment and disposal of waste and effluent;
make suitable and effective provisions for adequate ventilation;
maintain temperatures to secure reasonable comfort for workers;
remove any dust or fumes from the workplace which may be injurious to workers;
prevent overcrowding by maintaining a specific cubic area for each worker;
provide sufficient and suitable light;
make suitable arrangements to provide clean drinking water conveniently situated for all workers and;
provide suitable latrines and urinals to specified standards. The Factories Act requires employers to provide basic safety measures including:

securely guarding all parts of dangerous machinery;
precautions for working on machinery;
emergency devices for cutting off power;
maintain hoists and lifts;
lifting machines, chains, ropes, and other lifting tackle must be maintained in good condition;
test pressurised vessels regularly;
ensure walking surfaces are of sound construction;
provide protective equipment;
measures to remove gas and dust before entering confined places;
measures to prevent fires. The factory occupier must disclose information about:

dangers, health hazards, and measures to protect workers from substances or materials in manufacture, transportation, storage etc. to the workers, the chief factory inspector, and the local authority;
safety and policy;
quantity and characteristics and disposal of substances and waste;
emergency plans to workers and the local public;
handling, using, transportation, storage and disposal of hazardous substances to workers and the local public. The Factories Act also binds the employer to maintain up-to-date health records of workers, and to appoint a person experienced in handling hazardous substances to supervise handling, and provide protective measures and regular medical examinations.
The Chief Factory Inspector of the Factory Inspectorate enforces The Factories Act.
But a major problem is poor enforcement of the law. There are too few Factory Inspectors who are not even provided with adequate resources.
Mines Act
This law specifies:

minimum age of employment is 18;
one day of rest per week;
limited working hours;
no underground work for women;
provision of clean water and medical facilities;
constitution of tripartite committees;
no unsafe mines;
right of inspectors to survey safety and health;
emergency plans;
notification of occupational diseases. Occupational Accidents
The ILO estimates that over half the world’s occupational accidents occur in the Asia-Pacific region. Occupational accidents are grossly under-reported in India. Even so official figures in 1994 showed 23 injuries per 1,000 factory workers. This compares with four per 1,000 workers in Japan in 1992, and 10 per 1,000 in Singapore.
In any case the factories Act does not cover the vast majority of workers because they work in the informal sector where accidents are not reported at all. This invalidates government statistics.
Occupational Disease
The Factories Act requires notification of occupational diseases to the government, but they are hardly reported, allowing official statistics to compare well with industrialised countries.
However independent studies report the existence of many occupational diseases, most notably respiratory diseases due to dust. Agriculture is India’s largest employer. Workers are exposed to a wide variety of dust in its fields and factories.
The most common disease is bysinossis caused by cotton dust in the textile industry.
Asthma and allergies are common among workers in grain and tea production. Chronic lung diseases such as silicosis and pneumoconiosis are due to mineral dust.
Heavy metal poisoning especially lead, chromium, pesticide and other chemical poisoning are quite common.
Deafness, largely undiagnosed and unreported, is very common in industries like engineering, heavy machinery, textile and manufacturing.
Few doctors are able to diagnose occupational disease. Silicosis and bysinossis are often diagnosed as tuberculosis. Doctors are not trained in occupational disease.
Due largely to poverty workers continue to work even when sick or injured.
Workmen’s Compensation
There are two main laws for compensating occupational diseases and accidents:

Workman’s Compensation Act
Employees State Insurance (ESI) The procedure for compensation is so cumbersome that very few damaged workers receive compensation.
Even though workers are insured under the ESI act getting compensation is enormously difficult.
Occupational Safety and Health Institutions
There are two main institutions devoted to occupational health and safety:

Central Labour Institute, Mumbai [Bombay] and Regional Labour Institutes in Calcutta, Kanpur and Chennai under Ministry of Labour;
National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad and regional institutes in Calcutta and Bangalore under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) ministry of health. The National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) has many facilities this field. It is quite active as a research institute but has no system for consultation with employers or trade unions.
Voluntary Organisations
Since most Indian workers are unorganised, voluntary organisations play a vital role in reaching and highlighting their problems.
However over the last decade the voluntary sector has generated awareness about health and safety. In India NGOs working on labour rights and occupational health and safety have deciphered technical jargon and try to make ordinary workers understand that they can handle their own issues with a bit of training and become less dependent on experts who are not always approachable or available.
Occupational health and safety cannot be isolated from other problems like wages or job security.
The key job is to make workers aware of the importance of occupational hazards. Trade unions are reluctant to organise on occupational health and safety, mostly due to ignorance and lack of awareness.
It is unlikely that things will improve unless workers participate in the process. Even though the Factories Act specifies worker participation in safety management and safety committee membership, such committees are largely a paper exercise.
It is almost certain that a worker on the shop floor knows about an hazard long before anyone else including the ‘experts’. Thus, his involvement in health and safety matters is essential.
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Bhopal Gas Disaster
This happened on 2 December 1984, when over 40 tonnes of highly poisonous methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of the pesticide factory of Union Carbide at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh state. Thousands immediately died of poisoning. At least 20,000 have died in the years since, and ten more die every month due to exposure-related diseases.
In the scandal that followed the disaster the company was taken over - chairman, Robert Kennedy who had 35,000 shares in the company, profited by $70,000.
Union Carbide’s policy at the plant was to switch off the refrigeration unit to save about Rs.700 (US $50) per day. If the cooling unit been switched on, a runaway reaction could have been delayed or prevented. The factory workforce had been halved to maximise profits, training was reduced from six months to 15 days, and routine maintenance was very slack.
Equally over-confident was J. Mukund, Carbide’s works manager, who said, “The gas leak just can’t be from my plant. The plant is shut down. Our technology just can’t go wrong. We just can’t have such leaks.” As soon as it was confirmed that the gas was from the Union Carbide plant, the chief medical officer denied that the gas was fatal, instead he described it as a minor irritant.
The 120,000 victims who survived however face a future of misery. They suffer from acute breathlessness, brain damage, menstrual chaos, and loss of the body’s immune system leading it to be dubbed chemical AIDS.
The first claim against Union Carbide sued for damages of up to $15 billion. Then without any consultation with victims’ representatives, the government reduced the claim to just over $3 billion. Four years later with no consultation, the government settled for $470 million.
A less damaging incident had occurred in 1982, but despite the warning this should have given the company, T S Viyogi, Labour Minister at the time said, “A sum of Rs. 25 crore [US$17.8 million at 1982 exchange rates] has been invested in this unit. The factory is not a small stone, which can be shifted elsewhere. There is no danger to Bhopal, nor will there ever be.”
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<hr align="left" noshade="noshade" width="78"> Source: ALU Issue No. 39, April - June 2001