The paper presents various rules and regulations enforcing the safety of labours employed in hazardous industries. At present, comprehensive safety and health provision for regulating occupational safety and health at workplaces mainly exists in respect of the four sectors, manufacturing, mining, ports, and construction. The paper deals with the acts ensuring various compensation and insurance for the injuries and fatalities at workplace pertaining to dangers and hazards. The following paper also briefly explains NPSHEW and OSHWCC, the respective policy and code passed by the Government of India.
A safe workplace and healthy work environment are the basic right of every worker. India has a very poor safety record of labour working in hazardous industries. Much legislation exists to protect workers’ rights and their safety working in hazardous industries, but they are not implemented properly and only an elite of workers enjoy the benefits. The workforce is abundant, illiterate, low-skilled, and easily available and the high rate of unemployment makes them susceptible to exploitation. Getting work is more important than the hazards and dangers involved.
In India, labour comes under the concurrent list of the Constitution. In this regard, both parliament and state legislatures can make laws regulating labour. Currently there are over 100 state and 40 central laws controlling various aspects of labour such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions, social security, and wages. However, the laws concerning to health and safety of workers in hazardous industries have remained static. There is an upward swing in the number of the accidental deaths and injuries and occupational diseases-yet the figures reported are a lot lower than the actual figures. Specialised manpower and related infrastructure for dealing with health and safety aspects of workers have not been developed as per the desired requirements and ideal necessities.
Although strong labour laws exist, but in practice workers are subject to daily verbal contracts, risky occupations with no minimum protection measures, dilapidated infrastructure and obsolete tools, low daily payments or unpaid wages which can’t be claimed, the result of a network of contractors evading their responsibility: a situation, in short, characterised by instability, insecurity and uncertainty. According to experts, workers at the bottom of the labour hierarchy have come to accept labour abuses and dangerous conditions, often unconscious of the risks they face on a daily basis. In an environment where workers can lose their jobs for speaking out, most keep quiet to endure. Workers face hazardous conditions so widespread that most choose to prioritise their employment, even at the risk of their safety and wellbeing. It is estimated that unsafe and perilous work conditions is one of the leading causes of death and disability among India’s working population. These deaths are needless and preventable.
Legislations for safeguard of occupational health and safety mainly concern dock workers and workers in manufacturing, construction, building and mining sectors. In India, occupational health and safety of labours employed in industries is under two ministries: 1) Labour and 2) Health and Family Welfare. The Ministry of Labour and the labour departments of the states and union territories are mainly responsible for health and safety of workers. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is responsible for providing health and medical consideration to workers through its facilities. The DGFASLI (Directorate General – Factory Advisory Services and Labour Institutes) and the DGMS (Directorate General of Mines Safety) assist the Ministry in technical aspects of occupational health and safety in mines, factories, respectively.
There are various articles in Indian Constitution for ensuring labours’ safety and health working in hazardous industries. Article 24 which prohibits employment of children under the age of 14 years, 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 and f) states that the health of men, women and children should be safeguarded, and children should be given opportunity and provision for healthy development and should be protected against exploitation. Article 42 states that just and humane conditions at work and maternity relief should be provided. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is one of the subjects allotted to the Ministry of Labour and Employment under the Government of India Allocation of Business Rules. The industrial Safety and Health branch of the Ministry discharges the overall functions relating to policy decisions and laying down guidelines for country wide adoption of legislation.
Major Legislation Pertaining to Health and Safety of Labours
The Factories Act, 1948
The First Factories Act was passed in 1881 in India, 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, it has since then steadily developed into a welfare measures of wide contents and coverage through innumerable amendments. The Act, covering factories wherein the enforcement of safety at workplace is by the Chief Inspector of Factories in the respective states. The Factories Act binds the employer to appoint a person experienced in handling hazardous and dangerous substances to supervise handling, to maintain up-to date health record of employees and provide workers with protective measures and regular medical examinations. The Act requires employers to provide basic safety measures such as taking precautions for working on machinery, employment of emergency devices for cutting off power, maintenance of hoists and lifts, taking precautions for working on machinery, testing of pressurised vessels regularly, lifting machines, chains, ropes and other lifting tackle must be maintained in good condition, protective equipment should be provided, measures taken to remove gas and dust before entering confined places, measures to prevent fires. The provision states that the factory occupier must disclose information about the dangers, health hazards, and measures to protect workers from substance or material in transportation, manufacture, storage etc. to the workers, the chief factory inspector, and the local authority, about safety and policy, quantity and characteristics and disposal of substances and waste, emergency plans .
The Mines Act, 1952 and Other Laws Related to Mines
Safety of persons employed in mining activities became a matter of concern with the progress in exploitation of minerals. The Mines Act, 1952 regulates the provisions for regulating employment of persons, leave with wages, duties and responsibilities of owner, agent and manager, drinking water, First-Aid and rest sheeters, medical examinations and occupational health surveys, notices of accidents and occupational diseases. In addition, the provision of the Act also ensures the minimum age of workers employed in mining activities is eighteen, no underground mining is done by women, no mines should be unsafe for mining, constitution of tripartite committees, right of inspectors to survey safety and health.
The Laws dealing with occupational safety and health of workers are applicable to Mines: Mines Act (1952), Coal Mines Regulations (1957), Metalliferous Mines Regulations (1961), Oil Mines Regulations (1984), Mines Rules (1955), Mines Vocational Training Rules (1966), Mines Rescue Rules (1985), Mines Creche Rules (1966), Electricity Act (2003), Factories Act (1948): Chapter III & IV Manufacture, Storage & Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules (1989) – under Environmental Protection Act (1986), Land Acquisition (Mines) Act (1885), The Coal Mines (Conservation & Development) Act (1974).
The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 & The Dock Workers (Safety, Health & Welfare) Regulations, 1990
A unified Act, the Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 was enacted and the detailed Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations were framed in 1990, in order to ratify the ILO Conventions 152 and also to implement the recommendation of the National Commission on Welfare. The Dock Worker (Safety Health and Welfare) Regulations, 1990 are covering safety aspects in the working places, warehouses and storage places, decks, and Hatch ways etc. The Act provisions deals with the health aspects like cleanliness, latrines and urinals, spittoons, ventilation, temperature in the dock area., drinking water, the Act also ensures welfare facilities like washing facilities, First-Aid boxes, ambulance rooms, shelters or rest rooms, stretchers, ambulance carriage, canteens, medical examination of dock workers, notices, welfare affairs.
The Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
The Building & Other Construction Workers Act, 1996 aims at regulating the employment of construction workers, conditions of services of building and providing for their safety, welfare and health measures.
The Act deals with the provision for safety and health of building and other construction worker on safety of working place, precautions to be taken, the avoidance of danger from collapse of building, handling or use of explosives. The regulations also ensure erection, installation, use and maintenance of transporting equipment, and appointment of competent person to drive or operate such equipment. Precautions to be taken to prevent inhalation of dust, fumes, gases or vapours during manipulation of any material and adequate lighting and safeguarding of machinery, keeping of safety sheets, safety nets and step should be taken to prevent dangers to workers from electric machinery.
The Act regulates the provision of maintenance of medical facilities for building workers or any other matter concerning the health and safety of workers working in operations.
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code (OSHWCC), 2019
The Ministry had taken steps for drafting four labour codes on Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security & Welfare, and Safety, Health and Working conditions respectively, by simplifying and amalgamating the relevant provisions of the existing Central Labour Laws. The OSHWCC, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Ministry of Labour & Employment in July 2019, then it was referred to the Standing Committee in Oct 2019. The Code seeks to regulate safety and health conditions of workers in establishments with ten or more workers, and in all mines and docks. It replaces and subsumes thirteen existing labour laws which deals with safety, health and welfare conditions of workers employed in various hazardous industries.
As per the draft of the Code, every employer shall ensure that industries is free from hazards which cause or are likely to cause injury or occupational disease to the employees. The provision of the Code covers mines, factories, dock workers, building and construction workers, plantation labour, cine worker etc.
Other Related Legislation Concerning Safety and Health of Working in Dangerous Environment
The Indian Boilers Act, 1923 (amended 2007)
The provision of the act is to consolidate and amend the law relating to steam boilers.
The Dangerous Machines (Regulation) Act, 1983
The Act regulates the trade and commerce, supply, distribution and use of the product of any industry producing dangerous machines, the provision also provides for payment of compensation for death or bodily injury suffered by any labourer while operating any dangerous machines.
The Plantation Labour Act, 1951 (amended 2010)
The Act ensures the welfare of labours and regulates the safety and health conditions of work in plantation.
The Beedi Cigar Workers Act (Conditions of Employment), 1966 (amended 1993)
The Act provides for the safety of the workers in beedi and cigar establishments and regulates the conditions of their work.
The Explosives Act, 1884
The Act enacted for regulating the manufacture, possession, use, sale, transport, import and export of Explosives, also there are the Explosives Rule 2008 (amended 2011), The Static and Mobile Pressure Vessels Rules, 1981 & 2016, Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012 and The Gas Cylinders Rules, 1981 & 2016.
The Insecticides Act, 1968 (amended 2000)
The Act regulates provision for the import, manufacture sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides with view to prevent risk of danger to human beings or animals.
India is a founding member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), but has ratified only 36 of the 177 technical conventions related to health. The ILO frames key conventions for protecting the rights of workers; many of them are characteristically on occupational health and safety. These conventions, once ratified by member states, form leading principles for the formulation of national policies and laws. The ILO has 18 conventions that are targeted at achieving the issues of occupational safety and health (OSH). India is still to sanction important conventions like Convention 155 on occupational safety and health and the working environment, Convention 187, the framework promotes for occupational safety and health, Convention 184 on safety and health in agriculture, Convention 176 on safety and health in mines, Convention 167 on safety and health in construction.
Mainly, there are two laws operating for compensating occupational diseases and accidents suffered by workmen employed in various hazardous industries:
- The Workmen’s Compensation Act
- The Employees State Insurance Act
The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948
An Act to provide for certain benefits to workmen in case of sickness, maternity, and employment injury. Workers insured under the Act are also entitled to several benefits, including medical, diseases and disablement benefits. However, the Act applies only to specific geographical areas and sectors. While the Act offers numerous benefits, it does not provide for life insurance.
Between 1997 and 2009, the Employees State Insurance Corporation provided treatment and compensation to 1576 cases of occupational diseases- an abysmally low figure, given the large number of workers around 19.5 million, employed in various hazardous industries
The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923
The workmen’s Compensation Act,1923, an Act provide for the payment by employer to their workmen of compensation for injury by accident. Subject to the provision of this Act the amount of compensation shall be as follows specifically, where death results from the injury, an amount equal to fifty percent of the monthly salary of the deceased worker multiplied by the relevant factor, or a sum of fifty thousand rupees whichever is more; where permanent total disablement results from the injury, an amount equal to sixty percent of five monthly salaries of the injured workman multiplied by the relevant factor, or a sum of sixty thousand rupees whichever is more.
The provision as per Workmen’s Compensation, Employer’s Liability for Compensation, if personal injury is caused to a workman by accident in the course of his employment, his employer shall be liable to compensate.
National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Workplace (NPSHEW)
On the basis of Directive Principles of State Policy as well as international instruments, the Government of India, Ministry of Labour & Employment, had declared the National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Workplace (NPSHEW) on 20th February, 2009 to regulate all economic activities for management of safety and health risks at workplace, to provide measures to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for every working man and woman across the nation. Government recognizes the purpose of this National Policy is to establish a preventive safety and health culture in the country through elimination of the incidents of work related injuries, diseases, fatalities, disasters as safety and health of workers has a positive impact on productivity and economic and social development.
The Policy aims to bring improvement in safety, health, and environment at hazardous workplace. The main objectives are to achieve: A) Continuous reduction in the number of incidences of work-related injuries, diseases, fatalities, disasters, loss of assets. B) Continuous improvement of community awareness regarding safety at workplace pertaining to dangers and hazards. C) Continually improving health and safety standards, and creation of “green jobs” contributing to sustainable development.
Though legislation is in place to guarantee adequate delivery of occupational health and safety services, with supporting national programmes, policies and institutions, still there are many lacunae which impose challenges for achieving the aims and objective of safety of labour working in dangerous and hazardous industries. The safety and health of workers working in the hazardous environment cannot be isolated from other workmen’s problems like wages or job security. The key job is to make workers aware of their rights and various provision of the acts that ensures occupational safety, health, and welfare for them.
The ineffective and non-implementation of legislation is a major constraint, there is low priority and spending on public health, lack of trained occupational health manpower with deficient institutions, training modules, qualification courses, infrastructure, facilities, budgetary provisions make the implementation of legislation a challenge and therefore put safety of workmen in hazardous industries at stake. Poverty being an additional risk factor with low income labour more likely to work in high-risk occupations such as agriculture, mining, and construction. Existing labour’s safety related legislation and facilities need to be expanded and extended to workers in the unorganised sector with immediate implementation and periodic review for improvement. Basic concerns which are barriers to economic development as well as implementation of safety and health policy of workmen like dense population, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, and unskilled manpower need to be addressed urgently. There is an urgent requirement of modern health and safety legislation of labour working in hazardous workplace, adequate enforcement machinery and establishment of centres of excellence in occupational medicine in all states of the country managed by a central institute.
Q.1. What Are Some Major Acts Governing Safety of Labour in Hazardous Industries?
Ans. Major acts governing safety of labour in hazardous industries are as follows:
- The Factories Act, 1948
- The Mines Act, 1952 and laws relate to mines.
- The Dock Workers (Safety, Health & Welfare) Act, 1986 and The Dock Workers Regulations,1990
- The Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
Q.2. Under Which List of Constitution Does Labour Come?
Ans. Labour comes under the concurrent list of the Constitution. In this regard, both parliament and state legislatures can make laws regulating labour.
Q.3. What Are Major Compensation Laws for Workmen Employed in Hazardous Industries?
Ans. Mainly, there are two laws operating for compensating occupational diseases and accidents suffered by workmen employed in various hazardous industries:
- The Workmen’s Compensation Act
- The Employees State Insurance Act
Q.4. What is OSHWCC, 2019?
Ans. OSHWCC is Occupational, Safety, Health and Working Condition Code, 2019.
Q.5. What Is the Objective of The Factories Act?
Ans. The Factories Act binds the employer to appoint a person experienced in handling hazardous and dangerous substances to supervise handling, to maintain up-to date health record of employees and provide workers with protective measures and regular medical examinations.
- Saha, R.K., 2018. Occupational Health in India. Annals of Global Health, 84(3), pp.330–333. DOI: http://doi.org/10.29024/aogh.2302
 “National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Work Place,” Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
 International Labour Organization. International Labour Standards on Occupational Safety and Health [Internet] [cited 2015 Dec 19]. Available from: http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/subjects-covered-by-international-labour-standards/occupational-safety-and-health/lang–en/index.htm
 Employees’ State Insurance Corporation. Press Release. 5th December 2014. http://esic.nic.in/press/Press_Release_05.12.14.pdf