Social dialogue for safe workplaces 

News: Recently, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) celebrated April 28 as World Day for Safety and Health at Work to stress on the prevention of accidents and diseases at work. The ILO also published “Enhancing social dialogue towards a culture of safety and health with theme, “Act together to build a positive safety and health culture”. 

Situation wrt occupational safety and health (OSH) since Covid-19 

The occupational safety and health (OSH) issues are prevalent in many industries which directly and indirectly affect workers’ and their families’ well-being 

Globally, an estimated 2.9 million deaths and 402 million non-fatal injuries are attributed to occupational accidents and diseases.  

The occupational safety and health (OSH) mechanisms need to be strengthened to establish workplaces that are not hazardous for workers. 

What are the problems associated with OSH? 

Occupational accidents and diseases entail economic losses for enterprises and economies.

They lead to presenteeism (working with less effectiveness), productivity losses associated with permanent impairment, and staff-turnover costs (i.e., loss of skilled staff). At national level, they can cost 5.4% of the global GDP annually. 

Occupational injuries and illnesses cause immeasurable suffering and loss to victims and their families.  

The lack of awareness of health hazards at workplaces leads to misdiagnosis by doctors.  

What measures have been taken in India so far? 

The Government of India declared the National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Workplace in 2009. The Government has compiled the available OSH information as National OSH Profile in 2018.  

At the state levels, the Uttar Pradesh Government carried out participatory OSH training workshops in various informal sectors in cooperation with employers and workers.  The Government of Kerala applied the ILO’s participatory OSH training methodologies to small construction sites. The Rajasthan Government also organized an OSH awareness campaign. 

Way Forward 

The government should launch a strategic National OSH Programme across all the sectors.  

The agencies should effectively implement The OSH and Working Conditions Codes 2020, especially in informal sector where 90% of India’s workforce is engaged. The code includes fair and effective labour inspections, and active workplace OSH committees. 

At the national level, the government needs to include all relevant ministries to ensure that workers’ safety and health are prioritised in the national agenda.  The resources should be allocated to increase general awareness around OSH, knowledge of hazards and risks, and an understanding of their control and prevention measures.  

At the state level, workers’ and employers’ organisations, should do bilateral discussions on the safety and health training 

A reliable occupational accident and disease reporting system should be created. It can help in making effective prevention policies and remedying victims.  

The doctors should be trained on the various occupational diseases and workplace hazards and risks. 

Social dialogue should be promoted to create a positive safety and health culture at workplaces. This can be achieved through cooperation and discussions between employers and workers. 

Source: The post is based on an article “Social dialogue for safe workplaces” published in The Hindu on 28th April 2022. 

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