Every year since 2003, April 28 has been celebrated as World Day for Safety
and Health at Work. The main goal behind designing this day was to promote the
prevention of occupational accidents and disease in the workplace and raise
public awareness about the importance of occupational health and safety.
might wonder why there is so much stress on the occupational health and safety
of workers. The answer lies in various findings and research, which link the
success and overall well-being of an organisation with the health quality of its
workforce. For instance, research shows that workers are more productive in
workplaces that are committed to health and safety. Similarly, it ensures that
there are fewer disruptions in the functioning of the organization, which
ultimately helps to reduce the financial burden that would be otherwise caused.
As the world is growing more sensitive towards the rights and protection of the
workforce, consumers today prefer brands that have high ethical standards. Thus,
ensuring a good safety and health record can give a business a competitive edge
by building trust and repute among the consumers and increasing the overall
profitability of the business. Despite all these tangible benefits, the chief
reason that ensures that employers comply and maintain a safe work environment
is the "Laws on health and safety of workers."
Health and safety laws are
criminal laws in many countries, including India, and violations can result in
prosecution, fines, and even imprisonment. These laws put the onus on employers
and businesses to maintain good and safe working standards. In the U.S., The
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), passed in 1970, regulates and
oversees health and safety in the workplace. In the U.K., the Health and Safety
at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work The Regulations
1999 are the two main sets of legislation that govern health and safety at work
in the U.K.
Similarly, in India too, there are various laws which govern the
health and safety of workers. This legislation can be classified into two
categories: the ones in force prior to the enactment of the four new labour
codes and the ones currently in force. The Factories Act, 1948 falls into the
former category, while the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions
Code, 2020 falls into the latter category.
Starting with the laws which were introduced before the four new labour codes
were brought, the Factories Act, 1948 has been (and continues to be until the
final enactment of the new labour codes) the main piece of legislation which
governed and promoted adequate safety and health measures of the workers
employed in factories.
In the case of Ravi Shankar Sharma v. State of
, the Court held that Factories Act is a social legislation and it
provides for the health, safety, welfare and other aspects of the workers in the
factories. In other words, the act serves dual purpose - one, to protect workers
from being exploited at workplace and to provide for a recourse in case of
violation of the same.
In Bhikusa Yamasa Kshatriya (P.) Ltd. v. UO
court held that the Act has been enacted primarily with the object of protecting
workers employed in factories against industrial and occupational hazards. To
secure this objective, the act puts certain obligations and duties on the
employers and the establishments to protect the workers and ensure a conducive
work environment. Thus, it can be said ensuring adequate health and safety
standards at workplace are the key aims of this legislation.
This law extends to whole of India w.e.f. April 1, 1949. This law is
applicable on all 'factories' whereon ten or more workers are working, or were
working on any day of the preceding twelve months, and in any part of which a
manufacturing process is being carried on with the aid of power, or is
ordinarily so carried on, or whereon twenty or more workers are working, or were
working on any day of the preceding twelve months, and in any part of which a
manufacturing process is being carried on without the aid of power, or is
ordinarily so carried on,— but does not include a mine subject to the operation
of [the Mines Act, 1952 (35 of 1952)], or a mobile unit belonging to the armed
forces of the Union, railway running shed or a hotel, restaurant or eating
The benefits of this act can be availed by all persons who fall under
the definition of 'worker' specified in Section 2(l) of the act. The various
provisions regarding the health, safety and welfare of workers can be found in
Chapter III, IV & V of the act.
With regards to the health of workers, several provisions are specified in
Chapter III of the act. This includes provision on cleanliness which requires
that every factory is kept clean and free from effluvia arising from any drain,
privy or other nuisance, provision on disposal of wastes and effluents
mandates that effective arrangements should be made in every factory for the
treatment of wastes and effluents due to the manufacturing process carried on
therein, so as to render them innocuous, and for their disposal, provision for
ensuring and securing adequate ventilation by the circulation of fresh air
and such temperature to ensure reasonable comfort and prevent injury to health
of workers, provision to ensure that harmful and injurious dust and fumes
produced during various manufacturing processes are minimized or removed.
Similarly, this chapter contains provisions with regards to artificial
humidification of workplace in industries like cotton, textile etc., ensuring
sufficient air space to workers by preventing overcrowding, providing and
maintaining sufficient lighting in every part of workspace either by natural
or artificial means, ensuring arrangements for safe drinking water, ensuring
separate latrines for men and women which are cleaned on a weekly basis and
lastly, this act mandates that there should be sufficient number of
spittoons which are safe and hygienic. Most of the provisions in this
chapter are simple and self-explanatory in nature and ensure that dignity of
workers is protected and reasonable amenities are provided to them.
Next, we have chapter IV of the act which contains provisions relating to
safety. This chapter primarily contains precautions and restrictions to protect
workers from any bodily injury that can be caused while dealing with heavy
machinery and other industrial tools and equipment like hoists and lifts,
lifting machines, chains, ropes and lifting tackles, revolving
machinery, pressure plant etc.
For instance, Section 21 of the act
provides for fencing of machinery which contains an elaborate list of types of
machines and their parts which should be safely secured and maintained whether
in motion or not. This section also empowers the State Government to frame
additional rules and precautions to secure the safety of workers or exempt
certain machines or their parts from the purview of this act as may be deemed
right. This chapter also contains additional protective measures for the safety
of women and children.
For e.g., Section 22 of the act states that:
or young person shall be allowed to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of a
prime-mover or any transmission machinery while the prime-mover or transmission
machinery is in motion or to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of any machine
if the cleaning, lubrication and adjustment thereof would expose the woman or
the young person to risk of injury from any moving part either of that machine
or of any adjacent machinery."
Similarly, Section 23 provides that - "No young person shall be required or
allowed to work at any machine to which this section applies, unless he has been
fully instructed as to the dangers arising in connection with the machine and
the precautions to be observed and:
- Has received sufficient training in work at the machine, or
- Is under adequate supervision by a person who has a thorough knowledge
and experience of the machine.
The act also deals with toxic substances, hazardous fumes,
produced during manufacturing process. These safeguards are provided in Section
35-37 of the act and also has a separate chapter dedicated to it.
deterrent measure, Section 92 of the act provides for penal provision in case of
contravention of any rules specified in this chapter or any rules made under
thereof which results in any bodily injury or death during an accident. In the
former case, the penalty is twenty-five thousand rupees and fifty-thousand
rupees in the latter. Thus, this chapter like the previous one is quite
elaborative, exhaustive, and well-framed which if enforced strictly will ensure
worker's health and safety at maximum.
Now, coming to the four new labour codes, it is 'The Occupational Safety, Health
and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code)' which will regulate the health and
safety conditions of workers employed in establishments. The OSH Code is a
result of the deliberations made in the tripartite meeting comprising of the
Government, employers and industry representatives based on the recommendations
of 'The Second National Commission on Labour', which submitted its report in
The OSH code is a result of amalgamation, rationalisation and
simplification of relevant provisions of existing 13 labour legislations.
The bill, inter alia, provides for constitution of National Occupational Safety
and Health Advisory Board which would give recommendations to the Central
Government on policy matters, relating to occupational safety, health and
working conditions of workers.
The bill makes it a duty of every employer to
provide annual health check-up and tests for free of cost to certain class of
employees and ensure that the workplace is free from hazards which cause or are
likely to cause injury or occupational disease to the employees and comply with
the OSH Code and the Government's directions on the same.
The bill further
empowers the employees to obtain from the employer, information relating to
employee's health and safety at work and represent to the employer regarding
inadequate provision for protection of the employees safety or health in
connection with the work activity in the workplace, and if not satisfied, to the
The provisions on health, safety and working
conditions of workers as mentioned in Chapter V of the act are similar to those
given in the Factories Act,1948 the only difference being that the rules are
more gender inclusive in the present act. As of April 2022, 90% States have
published their Draft Rules On 4 Labour Codes and its implementation is
A critical drawback of both the laws is that they keep "gig and platform
workers" out of their protective cover. With the changing nature of work and the
rise of the gig economy, it is imperative that these workers are also included
in the purview of the above acts.
Similarly, the excessive delegation of powers
under the OSH code can be seen as lowering the guards of net health and safety
standards at the workplace. Thus, due attention and deliberation should be given
to these concerns to make the current labour laws more effective and
- AIR 1993 Raj. 117
- 1963 AIR 1591
- Section 2 & 3, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 2(m), The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 11, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 12, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 13, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 14, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 15, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 16, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 17, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 18, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 19, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 20, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 28, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 29, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 30, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 31, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 22, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Section 23, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- Chapter IV-A, The Factories Act, 1948, (Act 63 of 1948).
- The 13 labour laws are: 1. The Factories Act, 1948; 2. The Plantations
Labour Act, 1951; 3. The Mines Act, 1952; 4. The Working Journalists and
other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous
Provisions) Act, 1955; 5. The Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of
Wages) Act, 1958; 6. The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961; 7. The Beedi and
Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966; 8. The Contract Labour
(Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; 9. The Sales Promotion Employees
(Condition of Service) Act, 1976; 10. The Inter-State Migrant workmen
(Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979; 11. The Cine
Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers Act, 1981; 12. The Dock Workers (Safety,
Health and Welfare) Act, 1986; and 13. The Building and Other Construction
Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
- Section 16, The OSH Code 2020
- Section 6(c), The OSH Code 2020
- Section 14(1), The OSH Code 2020