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Make in India is "empty slogan" sans Safe in India: Every 15 seconds, a worker dies from work-related accident or disease

By Aakash A Shah and HP Mishra*
Health and safety of the employees is an important aspect of a company's smooth and successful functioning. It is a decisive factor in organizational effectiveness. It ensures an accident-free industrial environment. Companies must attach the same importance towards achieving high OH&S performance as they do to the other key objectives of their business activities.
This is because, proper attention to the safety and welfare of the employees can yield valuable returns to a company by improving employee morale, reducing absenteeism and enhancing productivity, minimizing potential of work-related injuries and illnesses and increasing the quality of manufactured products and/ or rendered services.
The Constitution of India has also specified provisions for ensuring occupational health and safety for workers in the form of three Articles i.e. 24, 39(e and f) and 42. The regulation of labour and safety in mines and oil fields is under the Union list. While the welfare of labour including conditions of work, provident funds, employers' invalidity and old age pension and maternity benefit are in the Concurrent list.
The Ministry of Labour, Government of India and Labour Departments of the States and Union Territories are responsible for safety and health of workers. Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) and Directorate General Factory Advice Services & Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) assist the Ministry in technical aspects of occupational safety and health in mines and factories & ports sectors, respectively. It aim s at the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations. It is essentially preventive medicine applied to different industrial and non industrial occupations.
Every 15 seconds , a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease. Every 15 seconds, 153 workers have a work-related accident . Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year. 317 million accidents occur on the job annually; many of these resulting in extended absences from work. The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product each year.
In 2005, the International Labour Organization published a report on work-related accidents around the world. It pointed out a strange anomaly: India had reported 222 fatal accidents that year, while the Czech Republic, with a working population of about 1% of India's, had reported 231. The ILO estimated that the “true number of fatal accidents” taking place in India every year was 40,000. But the last available data shows the Ministry of Labour and Employment continues to report a fraction of this number.
For the year 2010, this comes to 1,064 fatal accidents and 10,111 non-fatal injuries, which add up to 11 ,175 shop floor injuries across India. But a state-wise breakup of the data shows why the numbers are most likely gross underestimates. Gujarat reported 2,992 injuries in 2010 but none in the previous three years. Till 2014 as data available the total no. of MAH (maximum accidental hazard) units in Gujarat are 402. Non fatal accidents since 2014 (source DISH Ahmedabad) is 1751. Fatal accidents (2013-2014 Gujarat State) are 259. In Coal Mining Industry (as per 2015 data) the total no. of fatalities in India are 37, Accidents are 135 & total injuries are 141 across India.
For some sectors, there is little hope of a turnaround in the safety record. At 2 per 1,000, the rate of fatal accidents among ship workers at Alang, the world’s largest ship-breaking yard, is several times higher than the 0.27 per 1,000 for the mining industry, which is generally considered to be India’s most unsafe occupation. The preliminary findings of a study commissioned by the National Human Rights Commission and conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on Alang – released in May this year — point to an almost complete lack of enforcement of safety regulations, inadequate health facilities and an abysmal track record of punishing those found guilty of violations.
In India, construction industry is the second largest employer when compared to agriculture. Throughout the world, the construction area of civil engineering is one of the most hazardous industries. The number of fatal accidents taking place at the construction sites is quite alarming and the major cause was found to be fall of persons from height and through openings . In the present scenario, the Indian construction industry is quite large and complex involving latest technology as well as man power. On a par with the development of construction industry, drawbacks in terms of safety and health aspects are also witnessed.
The Indian construction labour force is 7.5% of the total world labour force and it contributes to 16.4% of fatal global occupational accidents. In the construction industry the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely than in a manufacturing industry, whereas the risk of a major injury is two and a half times higher. India has the world’s highest accident rate among construction workers, according to a recent study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that cited one survey by a local aid group showing that 165 out of every 1,000 workers are injured on the job. Construction workers are not the only sufferers of accidents but also the public including children are affected. These accidents diminish the image of the construction industry, and as a result there is shortage of skilled labour.
In the past few decades, need for safety awareness among construction industries was realized. This is due to the high cost associated with work related injuries, workers compensation, insurance premium, indirect costs of injuries, and litigation. Every year, a considerable amount of time is lost due to work related health issues and site accidents . There are several factors responsible for health problems and construction site accidents. From the result of Occupational Safety and Health Administration examination on the causes of construction fatalities, it was shown that 39.9% of fatalities in construction were caused by falls, 8.4% were struck by objects, 1.4% were caught in between incidents, and 8.5% were electrocution.
Lack of communication among the various departments involved and lack of proper inspections are the major reasons for accidents occurring at a construction sites. The construction site accidents may be caused due to the factors such as collapse of building parts and masses of earth, falling of objects and pieces of work on workers, fall of persons from heights, ladders, and stairs, loading, unloading, and transportation of loads, working on machines, and blasting with explosives.
Every effort must be taken to bring up the level of consciousness among the employees as well as management about the importance of health and safety at work sites. It is highly desirable to decrease the rate of labour accidents for employee working in the construction industry all over the world. Many preventive measures to address this problem have been proposed and carried out. However, accidents keep occurring with depressing regularity. Hence, new effective measures for prevention of labour accidents are always keenly anticipated.
Also, according to ILO, some 600,000 lives would be saved every year if available safety practices and appropriate information were used: 1. every year, 250 million accidents occur causing absence from work, the equivalent of 685,000 accidents every day, 475 every minute, 8 every second; 2. working children suffer 12 million occupational accidents and an estimated 12,000 of them are fatal; 3. 3,000 people are killed by work every day, 2 every minute; 4. Asbestos alone kills more than 100,000 workers every year.
ILO estimates show that the fatality rate in advanced industrialized economies is almost half that of Central and Eastern Europe, China and India. In the Latin America/Caribbean region, the fatality rate is even higher and in the Middle East and Asia (excluding China and India), the fatality rates soar to four-fold of that in the industrialized countries. Selected hazardous jobs can be from 10 to 100 times riskier. Construction sites in developing countries are 10 times more dangerous than in industrialized countries. Going beyond manufacturing, construction and road safety are areas in India, where the gap between Indian and global standards is the highest.
Industrialized countries have seen a clear decrease of serious injuries as a result of structural changes in the nature of work and real improvements in making the workplace healthier and safer, including improved first aid and emergency care which saves lives in the event of accidents. However the evolving nature of work is generating new occupational hazards, including musculo-skeletal problems, stress and mental problems, asthmatic and allergic reactions and problems caused by exposure to hazardous and carcinogenic agents, such as asbestos, radiation and chemicals.
In the US, all accidents are investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the Department of Labor. In addition, there are specialized bodies such as the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal agency that investigates accidents involving industrial chemicals, and with the mandate to pursue changes in systems and practices. In India, though, inquiry reports dished out by ad hoc committees headed by bureaucrats or labour commissioners are largely seen as fire-fighting measures that are simply not intended to bring about systemic change. Till those changes, the shop-floor could be a very unsafe place to be.
With an agenda to reduce accidents & occupational diseases, The National Policy on Occupational Safety, Health and Environment at Work in India is proposed.The national policy aims at improvement in the safety, health and environment at workplace through:- (i) statutory framework on OSH in respect of all sectors of economic activities (ii) facilitation of technical support services (iii) providing incentives to employees and employers (iv) establishment and maintaining of R & D capabilities in the area of risk management (v) focusing on prevention strategies; and (vi) competence enhancement of technical manpower. The policy sets its objective to achieve continuous reduction in work related injuries, diseases and associated costs; and continuous enhancement of awareness regarding safety, health and environment. The policy also outlines an Action Programme for achieving these objectives and goals. It identifies 9 key strategies: - 1. Enforcement 2. Development of national standards 3. Compliance 4. Awareness 5. Research and development 6. Skills development 7. Data collection 8. Practical guidance 9. Incentives .
At the end of this report I want to mention that despite having the best safety legislation & institutions, where are we failing to safe guard the health & safety of workers? Wh y don’ t the occupiers implement rigorous health & safety standards in workplace?? Despite of having all the data & list of vulnerable group of workers why are we still waiting for the next accident to happen?? There are several techniques that can be adopted for labour safety such as safety organization and management, safety policy, safety training, safety committees, site layout, first aid, lighting, personal protective equipment, and welfare facilities & many more . If the industries implement proper health & safety practices, we won’t have to face the regret saying “Make in India” is an empty slogan without “Safe in India”
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*Centre for Social Development, Ahmedabad

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