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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in India

Health and safety laws

In India, the primary legislation for health and safety is the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code). This code consolidates and amends various pre-existing laws, aiming to streamline regulations and improve worker protections.

Scope of the OSH Code

The OSH Code applies to a wide range of workplaces, including factories, mines, docks, construction sites, and any establishment with 10 or more employees. However, it excludes certain sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.

Key Provisions of the OSH Code

The OSH Code lays down a framework for ensuring safe and healthy working conditions. It includes provisions on the duty of employers, worker's rights, and registration of establishments. Employers have a primary responsibility to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of their workers. This includes providing a safe work environment, personal protective equipment, and health and safety training. Workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace and can refuse to work in unsafe conditions. Establishments covered under the Code are required to register with the designated authorities.

Additional Health and Safety Regulations

In addition to the OSH Code, several other regulations address specific health and safety concerns in India. These include the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, which focuses on safety in the construction sector, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, which prohibits child labor in hazardous occupations.

Occupational health and safety

In India, occupational health and safety (OHS) in workplaces is ensured through a combination of legal mandates and recommended best practices. These standards and practices are primarily driven by the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code) and are supplemented by additional regulations and industry-specific guidelines.

OSH Code Standards

The OSH Code forms the basis for OHS standards in India. It mandates several key requirements, including:

  • Workplace safety: Employers are required to identify and address workplace hazards, implementing control measures to minimize risks of accidents and injuries. This includes aspects like machine guarding, fall protection systems, and safe work procedures.
  • Work environment: The Code mandates the creation and maintenance of a healthy work environment. This includes factors like ventilation, lighting, noise control, and sanitation facilities.
  • Hazardous materials management: Employers are required to establish procedures for the safe handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous materials.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Employers must provide appropriate PPE to workers exposed to health and safety risks. This includes items like respirators, safety glasses, gloves, and footwear.

In addition to the legal requirements, several recommended best practices contribute to a robust OHS culture in India. These practices are often outlined in guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), a government body under the Ministry of Labour & Employment. Some key best practices include:

  • Risk assessment and management: Proactive identification of workplace hazards and implementing a systematic risk management plan to mitigate them.
  • Worker participation: Encouraging worker involvement in safety committees, incident reporting, and safety training programs. This fosters a sense of ownership and accountability for safety.
  • Emergency preparedness and response: Developing and practicing emergency response protocols for incidents like fires, chemical spills, or medical emergencies.
  • Health surveillance: Regular health monitoring programs for workers exposed to specific occupational hazards can help detect work-related illnesses early.

Industry-Specific Standards

Certain industries in India may have additional OHS standards beyond the general requirements of the OSH Code. These standards are established by regulatory bodies or industry associations and address the specific hazards associated with those sectors. For instance, the construction industry may have additional safety guidelines for working at heights or using heavy machinery.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections are crucial in maintaining safety standards. In India, the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code) empowers authorities to conduct these inspections and ensure workplaces comply with its provisions.

Roles and Responsibilities

Inspectors from various government bodies are designated by the OSH Code to conduct workplace inspections. These inspectors typically belong to the State Labour Departments, the Directorate General of Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) under the Ministry of Labour & Employment. Some states may also have special inspectorates for specific industries.

Inspection Criteria

During workplace visits, inspectors focus on several key criteria. These criteria ensure compliance with the OSH Code and related regulations, including:

  • Workplace registration: Verification of mandatory registration with the concerned authorities.
  • Work environment: Assessment of the physical work environment for factors like lighting, ventilation, noise levels, and sanitation facilities.
  • Hazard identification and control: Inspectors evaluate whether employers have identified workplace hazards and implemented appropriate control measures to minimize risks. This includes aspects like machine guarding, fall protection, and hazardous material handling procedures.
  • Provision of PPE: Verification that employers provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers exposed to health and safety risks.
  • Worker health and safety training: Inspectors assess if employers conduct mandatory health and safety training programs for workers.
  • Incident reporting: Review of procedures for reporting accidents, injuries, and occupational illnesses.

Frequency of Inspections

The frequency of workplace inspections can vary depending on several factors, including the industry type, accident history, and complaint-based inspections. Workplaces with a history of accidents or safety violations may be targeted for more frequent inspections. Inspectors may also conduct inspections in response to complaints filed by workers or unions about unsafe work conditions.

Follow-Up Actions

Following an inspection, the inspector will issue a report detailing their findings. Possible outcomes include:

  • Compliance notice: If minor violations are found, the inspector may issue a compliance notice requiring the employer to rectify the issues within a specified timeframe.
  • Prohibition notice: In cases of serious hazards or imminent danger to workers, the inspector can issue a prohibition notice stopping operations until the risks are addressed.
  • Prosecution: For severe violations of the OSH Code, legal action may be initiated against the employer, which could result in penalties or imprisonment.

Workplace accidents

In India, specific protocols are mandated for handling workplace accidents to ensure timely medical attention, proper investigations, and fair compensation for affected workers.

Reporting Requirements

Prompt reporting of workplace accidents is emphasized. Here's a breakdown of the reporting hierarchy:

  • Employer responsibilities: Upon the occurrence of an accident, the employer must immediately provide medical aid to the injured worker. They must also notify the designated authorities, depending on the severity of the accident, within the stipulated timeframe:
    • Serious accidents: Reported within 24 hours to the inspector and the chief inspector.
    • Fatal accidents: Reported immediately to the nearest police station and the inspector.
    • Occupational diseases: Notified to the inspector within 30 days of diagnosis.
  • Worker or dependent responsibilities: If the employer fails to report, the injured worker or their dependents can report the accident to the authorities.

Investigation Processes

Following the report, the designated authorities will initiate an investigation into the workplace accident. This may involve:

  • Site inspection: The inspector will visit the accident site to assess the scene and gather evidence.
  • Witness interviews: Statements from the injured worker, co-workers, and any other relevant witnesses will be recorded.
  • Document review: The inspector may examine workplace safety records, maintenance logs, and incident reports.

The investigation aims to determine the cause of the accident and identify any potential violations of safety regulations.

Compensation Claims

If the investigation reveals the accident resulted from employer negligence or failure to comply with safety standards, the worker (or their dependents in case of a fatality) is entitled to compensation under various provisions:

  • Employees' State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1948: Provides medical benefits, cash allowances for temporary or permanent disability, and dependents' benefits in case of occupational deaths or injuries.
  • Workers' Compensation Act, 1923: Offers compensation for occupational injuries, permanent disability, or death due to a work-related accident. The amount of compensation is determined by factors like the worker's wages and the extent of disability.

Workers or their dependents can file compensation claims with the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) or the authorities under the Workers' Compensation Act, depending on the nature of employment and coverage.

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