The history of occupational safety and health (OSH) goes back to 1700 when the first book on occupational diseases titled ‘De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (The Diseases of Workmen)’ by Bernardino Ramazzini was published. Since then, OSH has gained tremendous traction, and a new dimension has been added to it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A safe working place is the prerogative of any worker. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the eighth goal, i.e., Decent work and economic growth, among other targets, entails, “Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.”
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 2.78 million workers around the world die per year as a result of occupational accidents or diseases, and some 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries take place. Unsafe workplaces are not only detrimental to workers, their families, and society, but also affect the economy adversely. Poor health and safety environment at the workplace is estimated to result in an economic burden of almost 4 per cent of global GDP each year.
ILO, over the years, has set out international labour standards as legal instruments for the basic rights of workers concerning their health and safety at the workplace. ILO brought out a plan of action for the 2010 to 2016 period, which builds on its Global Strategy for OSH brought out in 2003, the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006, and the 2009 General Survey on OSH. The Indian national policy on OSH is safeguarded by the Constitution of India under its Directive Principles of state policy.
The latest data from Directorate General of Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) for 2017 showed about 1000 fatalities and close to 5000 injuries in India. About 3.6 million workers were found to be in hazardous factories in about 2.9 lakh registered factories across the country.
The Ministry of Labour developed the National Policy on Safety, Health, and Environment at the place of work in 2009, which aimed at promoting safety. Most recently, in a welcome move, the Government has brought out the Code for Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions 2020 as one among four new labour Codes. CII played a key role in working with Government and worker representatives for developing these labour Codes.
In general, the Codes converge 44 earlier legislations and also simplify and clarify labour regulations in the country. The new OSH code amalgamates, simplifies, and rationalizes the provisions of 13 central labour laws, including the Factories Act, Mines Act, and Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act.
CII has also put forth its recommendations on OSH & Social Security Rules to the Ministry of Labour & Employment. The recommendations pertain to appointment letters, journey allowance, a single license for a contractor in more than one state, daily & weekly working hours, clarity on display boards, OSH Code 2000, and social security rules, among others.
CII is working on recognition for safety and health which will contribute to creating a competitive environment for the industry to adopt safety best practices and evaluate and recognise the good work done by organisations in the area of industrial safety. The CII Centre for Manufacturing Excellence works on several initiatives to improve safety.
Traditionally, safety is an inherent component for quality management in an organization and is a measurable and quantifiable behavior, where preventive behaviour is key to success. For example, the Japanese concept of 5S – Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize), and Shitsuke (Sustain) – reduces the risk of injury by keeping the workplace clean and organized. Similarly, Kaizen or continuous improvement is an essential part of safety measures to bring new methods to improve operational efficiency. These and other concepts of total quality management are disseminated through the CII Institute of Quality.
With the advent of COVID-19, a new parameter has been introduced in building an efficient and safe environment for workers to not only keep them safe but build their confidence in returning to the work. CII has brought out workplace guidelines for dissemination to industry, including offices and factories.
To build an efficient industrial safety system in an organization, it is important to understand the business and security objectives, and carry out gap analysis and risk assessment. After this, a comprehensive design for the short and long term needs to be made and implemented. Further, it is necessary to design the safety systems in a comprehensive manner that takes into account the external environment as well. At the same time, the organization must continue to track risks, be it in maintenance, raw materials, tools, or external risks.
Countries across the globe are pushing for fair labour practices and sustainable environmental practices. More than organizations, consumers, human rights organizations, and labour unions, among others, are pushing for an international level playing field when it comes to OSH. As India gets ready for becoming an international manufacturing hub, the onus of building a decent workplace scenario falls on Indian industry. It must move beyond compliance and establish itself as a safe employer to enhance its brand image and reputation.
Building a safe and healthy working environment will go a long way, positively impacting the socio-economic paradigm of the country.