Lack of occupational safety kills workers

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DSC_8418In the afternoon of August 18, a 30-year-old construction worker was killed and 14 others injured when the roof of an under-construction indoor stadium in a school collapsed in Noida’s Sector 126, police said. On the same day, a construction worker was killed and another seriously injured in Namkhana village of West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district after an iron beam fell down on them at a bridge construction site. A crane was lifting the iron beam at the bridge construction site on the Hatania-Doania river when the beam accidentally fell down. On August 20, 40-year-old Rishi Pal died while cleaning the sewer of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital in central Delhi, while three others were taken ill after inhaling poisonous gas from the sewer. It was the 10th such death in Delhi in barely over a month.

The list of casualties at workplace is unending. In almost all the cases, there was no safety equipment for the workers. The worst part is that there are not enough laws in the country that may help curb such deaths. The existing legislations related to occupational safety either lack enough teeth or are not properly implemented. The National Policy on OSH at Workplace, adopted by the government in 2009, is one such example.

The Factories Act,1948 (Act No. 63 of 1948), as amended by the Factories (Amendment) Act, 1987 (Act 20 of 1987)), serves to assist in formulating national policies in India with respect to occupational safety and health in factories and docks in India covers a handful of OSH issues related to infrastructure and related industries.

However, no law was made specifically focusing on employees of the infrastructure sector after The Building And Other Construction Workers (Regulation Of Employment And Conditions Of Service) Act, 1996.

Officials and experts agree that there is a strong need for stronger laws for Occupational Safety & Health Standards in the Infrastructure and related industries as it involves the lives of millions of people working in the sector.

“If employers start accepting and treating their employees as their family members, it will make them think more about their safety. This will not only lead to a happy employer-employee relationship but also enhance the productivity,” said Uttar Pradesh’s Minister of Labour and Service Planning Swami Prasad Maurya.

Ashish Wig, Chairman, NIC Infrastructure Committee, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), said that the occupational safety hazards in the infrastructure industry, which employs more people than the farming sector, quite high.
“Legislative measures need active implementation and there is need to develop a proper infrastructure in India for occupational health and safety,” said Wig while speaking at an event organised by IACC in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. “Amendment and fresh laws, as per the present working scenario, is need of the hour.”

Dr Lalit Bhasin, Executive Vice-President, IACC, said that there are not enough laws and training to assure quality occupational safety and health standards in India and there is an urgent need to act on it at the earliest.

“The last occupational safety-related Act came into being about 20 years ago. Since then the work atmosphere has changed a lot and we need to review and draft fresh laws for the safety of the workers,” said Dr Avneesh Singh, Director General, Factory Advice Services and Labour Institute.

Patrick Santillo, Minister Counsellor for Commercial Affairs, US-FCS, US Embassy said, “To move forward in the direction of drafting new laws in India, we should not merely think as professionals but as a layman such as father, mother, son and daughter. This will help us in coming up with laws that will be more beneficial for the employees.”
Reports suggest that most of the time, employers fail to provide proper safety measures to their staff, but many times, lax attitude of employees who fail to follow the protection drill lead to casualties.

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