A recent news report says that a study has found massive ‘under-reporting’ of accidents at workplaces in India. The study, undertaken by British Safety Council (BSC), claims that nearly 48,000 causalities occur in India due to ‘occupational hazards’, and nearly 38 fatal accidents are witnessed in the construction sector on a daily basis. Among the companies that BSC works with are Indian Oil, Larson & Toubro, Mumbai International Airport, Reliance Industries and Tata.
What is the study?
British Safety Council (BSC) is a UK-based non-profit organisation that works to create awareness about workplace health, safety and environmental management. Increasing its presence and work in India, BSC has recently formed a strategic alliance with NIST Institute, a leading safety training organisation, with offices across the country, says the report. BSC recently started operations in Mumbai as well, and will offer services to employees of construction firms like audit, training, e-learning, qualifications and memberships to raise awareness of health and safety. Mike Robinson, Chief Executive Officer, BSC, said, “India, with 1.25 billion population, has a strong workforce of 465 million. However, only 20 percent of them are covered under the existing health and safety legal framework. Though there are laws to address these health and safety concerns, their implementation is a big task due to lack of adequate manpower.”
Referring to data already in the public domain, BSC says that every fourth accident happens in the construction sector, and that the workplace deaths in India are twenty times than in UK. Furthermore, the inadequacies of the safety checks were highlighted by pointing out that there exists just a single factory inspector for 506 registered factories, as of 2012.
Why are the results relevant?
The recent tragic news of the NTPC Boiler Blast accident, which resulted in over 40 causalities, and injured over a 100 people, brought the spotlight back on ineffective workplace safety regulations in India. The particular incident points to gross disregard to safety norms, as the unit had been commissioned in March, and had just started commercial operations in September of this year. Another report points to how complex the issue is, by stating that there are just five officials to inspect the 3270 boilers in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
This tragic news was quickly followed by another accident in the state of Haryana, where half a dozen workers were injured critically, following an explosion in an oil mill in Hisar.
The fact that the BSC report goes on to say that nearly 80% of the Indian workforce works in an unsafe environment reflects just how much remains to be done. With a large majority of the Indian working population employed in the informal sector, which fails to offer any formal benefit, there is an urgent need to create a framework that safeguards the basic safety rights of the workers. The government and leaders of high-risk sector, (namely construction, energy plants and other potentially dangerous industries) need to come together to protect their most essential asset: their employees.