- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at the Workplace (NPSHEW)
What to study?
For prelims: key features of the policy.
For mains: need, significance and challenges to its implementation.
Context: It’s been a decade since the National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at the Workplace (NPSHEW) was announced. It called for a legislation on safety, health and environment at workplaces. Yet, only the manufacturing, mining, ports and construction sectors are covered by existing laws on Occcupational Safety and Health (OSH).
Need for a legislation on safety, health and environment at workplace:
Around 2.3 lakh workers were affected and 2,500 died in more than 81 industrial accidents in the past three-and-a-half decades. Yet sectors such as agriculture, services and transport remain unlegislated from the point of work-safety.
Present issues and challenges:
Factories Act not enforced: Under the Factories Act, 1948, the state governments are empowered to frame their respective state factories rules and enforce both the Act and the Rules in their states through their Inspectorates of Factories / Directorates of Industrial Safety and Health under the labour departments. But these Inspectorates / Directorates are not adequately staffed for enforcing the Act and the Rules.
Dock Workers Act, 1986 and Regulations, 1990 enforced in major ports only: The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 and Regulations, 1990 have been enforced only in major ports by the DGFASLI. In other ports, the state governments are required to frame respective state regulations and enforce the provisions of the both, the Act and the Regulations, in these ports. However, till date, none of the states have framed their regulations for enforcement in these ports.
Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act not being enforced in true spirit
Even though the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act, 1996, is being enforced by the Labour Commissioners at the centre and at the state Level, but the safety and health provisions under the Act are highly technical in nature and are not being enforced in true letter and spirit.
Limited research on occupational safety: Modern approaches for dealing with safety, health and environment at workplace demands research in the area. But the number of institutes in the country for research and development are limited and these too are not fully equipped for carrying out their activities effectively.
Capturing data related to occupational safety and health across all the sectors has also been an issue for a long time, which has not been taken seriously till date. The most recent facts and figures shared by the ministry in Parliament in February 2019 were up to 2016 only.
Each ministry (or the respective department) is supposed to have a detailed policy on the working environment according to the guidelines on the National Policy. But so far, the Ministries or Departments have not worked out their policy.
Lack of legislation on safety and health in agriculture is hindering the ratification of ILO convention 155. The agriculture sector is the largest sector of economic activity and needs to be regulated for safety and health aspects. But the sector is lacking on legislation on safety and health for workers in this sector.
It is also worrying that the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises too do not have any legislation to cover the safety and health of the workers.
Sources: down to earth.