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Understanding The Latest Draft Of India’s Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Rules

Workplace safety accidents in India claim 48,000 fatalities each year, according to the latest study by the British Safety Council. In light of this heavy casualty toll, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has seen fit to draft a set of rules for workplaces to follow. Taking cues from the safety standards of countries such as Singapore and the United States, the draft was published on November 19, 2020. Since then, it was open for objections and suggestions until January 3, 2021. The final draft is yet to be released. But what we have now remains a fairly robust system of provisions for the safety of blue-collar workers such as those in the construction and mining sector. The provisions also apply for journalists, audio-visual workers, and other less physically demanding jobs.


The Two Foremost Provisions Of the Draft 
One of the primary provisions on the draft includes mandating registry to the Shram Suvidha Portal. This portal will also be used to log updates to the records of registered establishments, such as employee appointments and discharges. Employers are also required to issue employees a Letter of Appointment upon recruitment. Another main provision is a free medical examination for every worker. Employees working at construction sites, as well as in factories, docks, and mines shall be given free medical care every year within 120 days from the start of the new year. However, this is only applicable for workers aged 45 and up.


Employer Duties and Rights
The draft also gave several provisions similar to work site law in more developed nations such as the United States. If an employee becomes injured, has fallen ill, or otherwise involved in an accident, the employer is required to immediately notify the authorities and the employee’s family. Employees are also entitled to be notified of and removed from the presence of imminent danger as soon as such news reaches the employer. They are also duty-bound to report anything that may be a hazard to their employer or manager.


The employer is obliged to take prompt action against this threat. Afterward, they are to send a report of this action to authorities through post or electronic means as soon as possible. Establishments are also required to appoint a safety officer to advise and assist the employer in fulfilling their obligations and keeping the workplace safe. The draft also provided that maximum working hours per week would be limited to 48 hours a week and no more than 12 hours per day including breaks. Periods of work will be limited to five hours punctuated by breaks of at least half an hour.


As the world pays more attention to the health and safety of workers, India is yet to follow suit. But once the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions draft becomes law, it may soon find itself keeping up with current standards.

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