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FEATURES OF THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WORKING CONDITIONS CODE, 2020

Namisha Ojha

9 min read

Jul 3

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Article written by- Ms. Dhannisha Shetty, a first year BA.LLB student at Vivekanand Education Society's College of Law (Affiliated to Mumbai University).


ABSTRACT

This article discusses the features of The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 which subsumed into itself and replaced 13 Indian labour laws to bring about uniformity, streamline labour laws and promote ease of doing business in India. The code was enacted to ensure the safety of the Indian workers in various sectors and improve the working conditions of the Indian workers. This article intends to provide an insight of the supra stated code and highlight some key amendments made in the labour code specifically with respect to occupational safety, health and working conditions; which at present is one of the 4 major Indian labour codes. 

KEYWORDS: Labour, Code, Laws, Workers, Safety, Employees, Employer, Hazardous.

 

INTRODUCTION

A large portion of the Indian populace relied on agriculture before the 1970s, but non-agricultural cottage enterprises quickly began to emerge. Individuals began accepting positions in small-scale industrial enterprises like shoemaking, weaving, etc. Also, it's significant to note that modern technology has advanced, so industries are no longer restricted to meagre and straightforward product outputs. However, it hasn't altered the reality that labour is still a fundamental component of the Indian industrial system. Even today, a sizable labour force carries out risky activities such as making firecrackers, working in confined mining, etc for meagre pay. Before the passage of “The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation Bill)” in 1986, which forbade and penalized child labour by minors under the ages of 14 and 18, children were not exempt from these gruelling and hazardous jobs.


According to the reports/surveys of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of 2015, over 2.3 million workers lost their lives annually due to work-related illnesses or accidents and 313 million workplace accidents result annually in prolonged absences from work. Furthermore, the ILO projected 395 million workers had globally suffered non-fatal work-related injuries in 2023. Also, according to the latest ILO estimates, work-related accidents and diseases claim the lives of about three million people annually; showing a rise of more than 5% from 2015. The toll highlights the ongoing difficulties in ensuring and safeguarding the health and safety of workers worldwide. The majority of these 2.6 million work-related deaths were caused by illnesses related to the workplace. The investigation showed that an additional 3,30,000 deaths were related to work-related incidents. Moreover, Asia and the Pacific had the greatest rate of work-related mortality (63% of the global total), because of the magnitude of the workforce in the region. According to ILO data, the most dangerous industries are manufacturing, forestry, construction, and agriculture. These industries account for 200,000 fatal injuries annually, or 63% of all fatal occupational injuries. According to the survey, agricultural workers account for one-third of all fatal occupational injuries worldwide.


It's the obligation of the state to give employees a safe and healthy workplace, especially those employees who are hired and engaged in hazardous industries. The DPSP is embodied in all labour laws, yet these laws have significant limitations concerning their application and scope. The concurrent list gives the Union and State governments the power to enact labour legislation, which resulted in a proliferation of definitions and procedures that ultimately led to ambiguity. Moreover, because they were developed and put into practice in the 1970s and 1980s, they were outdated and unsuitable to the current industrial landscape due to the significant modifications the Indian industrial sector underwent over the years concerning the structure and function. However, in Occupational Health and Safety Association v. Union of India it was established that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution encompasses the safe and healthy working conditions for workers/employees. In this case, the court ruled that the right to a clean and safe environment is something flowing from Article 21 itself (a fundamental right that guarantees the right to life and personal liberty) and is an inseparable part of the right to live with human dignity and that the same principle is enunciated under article 39, 41, and 42 of DPSP.


The Union Government introduced four bills on labour codes to consolidate 29 central laws and amongst them was “The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code”. These codes were enacted with the main goal of simplifying labour laws and ensuring uniformity and transparency across India while taking into account the recommendations of the Second Law Commission on Labour in 2002. There were many laws in India guaranteeing safe and healthy working conditions; however, the Central Government brought in reform by introducing the “The Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2019”. This bill was first introduced in 2019 and then reintroduced in 2020 with certain key amendments; which was assented by the Indian President on 28th September, 2020.

 

FEATURES OF “THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WORKING CONDITIONS CODE, 2020 ("OSHWC")

·       There were 13 separate legislations which dealt with the safety and healthy working conditions of the workers in India prior to the enactment of the supra mentioned code. However, the OSHWC Code of 2020 replaced 13 existing labour laws by consolidating 13 existing laws into itself and subsuming about 633 sections of the 13 laws into 143 sections covering all scenarios in relation of the safety and healthy working conditions of the workers.

·       This code was brought into effect with the aim to ensure and improve safe and healthy working conditions of the workers, bring about uniformity, simplify and streamline the regime of labour laws and simplify the business compliance for employers.

·       This code promotes welfare of the workers and betterment of ease of doing business in the country; thereby simultaneously enabling an efficient system for the administration of justice.

·       Code’s dissection- This code is divided into 14 chapters, 143 sections and 3 schedules.

·       Schedules- This code consists of three schedules in total. These schedules cover the list of industries involving hazardous processes, list of matters and notifiable diseases.

·       Application- This code is applicable to the workers in various sectors like industry, trade, business, manufacturing, factory, motor transport undertaking, building and other construction work, newspaper establishments, audio-video production, plantation, mine and dock-work, and service sectors. Further, it applies to every establishment employing 20 workers with the aid of power, that is, electricity and 40 workers without the aid of power (electricity).

·       Non-application- The code is not applicable to offices of the central government, state government and any ship of war except for contract laborers appointed by the contractor for any state or central government office. Also, this code enunciates special provisions as to license, safety regulation, and duties of employers for workers working in factories, mines, and docks.


·       Some key provisions- They are as follows:

1.     Electronic registration for every establishment that falls under the ambit of this code.

 

2.     New definitions and terminologies introduced with wide coverage- Like “Employer”, “Employee”, and “Establishment” (-is now defined including factories, newspaper establishments and plantations with more than 10 workers employed). 

 

3.     Special provisions- This code creates special provisions for certain classes of establishments such as factories, mines, dock workers, construction workers, etc. It includes special provisions on licenses, employer’s duties and safety regulations.

 

4.     Relevant authorities- They ensure the efficient administration of the code. It comprises the “Registering Officer”, “Inspector-cum-Facilitator” (the nature of inspection is web-based but under special circumstances they can directly call upon documentation from any establishment and they issue unique numbers to establishments), “Chief Inspector-cum-Facilitator” for one or multiple states and if required the government may constitute a “Safety Committee” by general or special order. Thus, all the appointed officers have distinct roles and responsibilities.

 

5.     Advisory bodies- This code authorizes the Central and the State Governments to establish their own advisory bodies. The two bodies are “The National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board” and “The State Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board”.


6.     Duties of employers- This code mentions the duties of employers while also covering the responsibility of individuals who are not directly engaged in ensuring the working environment’s safety. Some duties of the employers include mandatory issuance of appointment letter to each employee on their appointment in the establishment, a requisite free annual health check-up for the employees by their employers, ensuring proper disposal of hazardous, toxic and e-waste by the employers, the duty of the employers owning specific establishments (as stated in this code) to look after the maintenance of the systems/plants to prevent any health risk for the workers/employees, the responsibility of the employers/contractors to provide welfare facilities to inter-state migrant workers as well as provide facilities like potable drinking water, locker rooms, humidification, etc. Furthermore, this code provides separate provisions for different employers in specific industries with duties like:

o   Owner, Agent and Manager in relation to mines.

o   Designers, Manufacturers, Importers and Suppliers

o   Architect, Project Engineer and Designer, etc.

 

7.     Rights of the employees- This code mentions the rights of the employees; however, these rights aren’t absolute. This code also states that the workers should prevent injury arising as a result of omission/negligence/mishandling from their side.  Some of the rights of the employees include the right to information (from the employer) with respect to employee’s health and safety at the workplace, the right to inform the “Inspector-cum-facilitator” regarding insufficient provisions for the employee’s safety and health conditions at the workplace or about the reasonable apprehension/risk which could lead to a fatal injury or death at the workplace. Also, if felt that there’s an imminent risk/danger, then the employee as well as the employer can take essential measures/steps to prevent it and report about the same to the “Inspector-cum-facilitator”.

 

8.     Duties of the employees- Some duties of the employees include abiding by the safety standards, abiding by the statutory obligations, reporting to the person in charge when in a dangerous situation, cooperating and complying with the employer, ensuring their own safety and preventing the commission of a willful negligent act or an omission on their part which could endanger their life as well as others, etc.

 

9.     Working hours- This code discusses inter-alia, daily and weekly working hours. The sections of this code mention the time constraints for workers in different sectors, holidays subject to conditions, compensatory weekly holidays, cash compensation in case of relinquishment of service (not as a punishment), extra wages for overtime, etc.

 

10.  Leave encashment- Employees can obtain leave encashment.

 

11.  Offences and penalties- Stringent penalties with (as compared to before) high monetary compensation amount and imprisonment period.

 

12.  Female employees- This code allows women to be employed in all types of establishments. There’s an increase in the threshold limit for creche facility to 50 from 30 for female workers/employees. Also, the code introduces a new clause for female workers working from 7pm to 6am subject to their consent and conditions ensuring their safety, working hours and holidays.

 

13.  Mandatory appointment of Welfare officer for 250 workers in mines, factories and plantations.

 

14.  This code also specifies special working hours and leave requirements for the workers employed in transport, journalism and sales promotion.

 

15.  This code brought changes in the threshold for the constitution of Safety Committee and in the appointment of the safety officer:

o   100 workers in a mine.

o   250 workers in hazardous process.

o   250 workers in construction related works.

o   500 workers in a factory.

16.  This code mentions the mannerisms of prosecution.

 

17.  Jurisdiction- This code bars civil courts from hearing matters falling under this code as the only judicial recourse for an aggrieved individual is to file a writ petition before the respective High Court.

 

18.  Further, this code ensures that instead of multiple registrations, there will mandatorily be one registration for each license and to ensure compliance there will be one annual return submission.

 

19.  According to the code, for some establishments like mines, factories or establishments hiring workers such as cigar workers, it may be requisite to obtain additional licenses to function.

 

 

CONCLUSION

The rights and privileges of the worker/employee and owner/employer relationship are perfectly balanced by this code. By consolidating 13 labour laws into one and expanding the definitions of certain terms to promote uniformity and guarantee safe and healthy working conditions for Indian workers/employees, this code has truly streamlined the legal framework of labour. However, for workers or employees in specific industries (like mine workers) who have worked for more than a minimum specified period, the code should have also incorporated “Dearness Allowance”.

 

REFERENCES

1.     Act No. 37 of 2020.

2.     Indian Journal of Law and Legal Research. (2021, November 21). A critical analysis “The Occupational Safety, health and Working Conditions Code, 2020.” IJLLR. https://www.ijllr.com/post/critical-analysis-of-occupational-safety-and-health-security-code-2020.

3.     Nearly 3 million people die of work-related accidents and diseases. International Labour Organization. (2024, February 19).

4.     AIR 2014 SC 1469.

5.     Singh, T. (2022, November 28). The Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020. Lawrbit. https://www.lawrbit.com/article/the-occupational-safety-health-and-working-conditions-code-2019/

6.     The Occupational Safety, health and Working Conditions Code, 2020. PRS Legislative Research. (2024, June 28). https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-occupational-safety-health-and-working-conditions-code-2020.

7.     Sep 26, 2020. (n.d.). Study finds gaps in occupational safety, health and Working Conditions Code: Chennai News - Times of India. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/study-finds-gaps-in-occupational-safety-health-and-working-conditions-code/articleshow/78334068.cms.

8.     Sep 26, 2020. (n.d.). Study finds gaps in occupational safety, health and Working Conditions Code: Chennai News - Times of India. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/study-finds-gaps-in-occupational-safety-health-and-working-conditions-code/articleshow/78334068.cms.

9.     Mathur, S. (2020, September 23). Labour reforms will bring “one licence, one registration, one return” regime, boost ease of doing business: India News - Times of India. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/labour-reforms-will-bring-one-licence-one-registration-one-return-regime-boost-ease-of-doing-business/articleshow/78264896.cms.

 

Namisha Ojha

9 min read

Jul 3

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