South Asia Experts’ Meeting on Occupational Safety and Health

The purpose of the meeting is to bring together occupational safety and health experts from South Asia, as well as ILO specialists, to enhance knowledge-sharing and technical collaboration on occupational safety and health issues among SAARC countries.

Honourable Minister of State, Labour and Employment (MoLE) Bandaru Dattatreya giving the inaugural address
Shri Dattatreya, Honourable Minister of State, Labour and Employment (MoLE), in his keynote address, said that sustainable growth is important for the entire South Asia region. He said, “Constitution of India provides broad framework regarding OSH. It has two principles, one on the provision of making employment of children under age of 14 in factories, mines and hazardous situations illegal, and second on the protection and safe health of all workers.” He said that the manufacturing sector contributes 17% to India’s GDP and it is proposed to be raised to 25% this year. In addition, the focus on national campaigns such as Make in India is a big boost to the manufacturing sector. The initiative is geared to enhance skill development and generate more employment opportunities. Strong efforts are being made to achieve targeted growth while creating positive safety and health culture. The minister also spoke of transparency and ease of business by modernizing labour laws information and inspection processes. He spoke of how the government has launched a portal called Shram Suvidha which has demystified labour inspection and dispelled fears regarding it. The ministry through the portal is implementing online registrations, issuing clearances to businesses, and simplifying existing labour laws. The essence, Shri Dattatreya said, is to achieve minimum government supervision and maximum governance.

In this integrated world of today safety, health and employment are global issues.

In this integrated world of today safety, health and employment are global issues. These are important parameters for global competition.

Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, Honourable MoS, Labour and Employment, Government of India
These are important parameters for global competition,” he said. The government of India has also declared national policy on safe health environment at workplaces. Currently the policy is under review.

Partha Pratim Mitra, Principal Labour and Employment Adviser, MoLE, said that the global economic growth trajectory is pointing towards the developing nations and thus it is important for us to look at better working conditions so that South Asia is able to play a critical role in the global trade environment. He also stressed on how OSH is an important aspect of the decent-work agenda. “ILO, and MoLE would like to share India-specific experiences and help shape the voice on OSH. Safety standards should be dynamic so that implementation is more robust on ground. India is getting there by proposing amendments to the Factories Act of 1948.”

Ms Panudda Boonpala, Director DWT/CO India, addresses the gathering
Panudda Boonpala shared the Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder’s, message on OSH and said that safe work is at the heart of ILO’s decent work agenda. ILO has been actively engaged on OSH issues and that the South Asian countries can share good practices and do a lot more in this area. “We have to acknowledge that OSH remains a serious problem at the global level. Every year 300 million accidents take place and nearly 350,000 people die because of workplace accidents. These figures have to be brought down. Workplace accidents result in loss of life, loss of business and loss of economy.” Boonpala said that adoption of national policies and registrations on OSH is a must and that countries should take into account ILO Conventions 155 and 187 that provide guidelines and frameworks in shaping national policies.

Adoption of national policies and registrations on OSH is a must and that countries should take into account ILO Conventions 155 and 187 that provide guidelines and frameworks in shaping national policies.

Ms Panudda Boonpala, ILO Director DWT/CO- New Delhi
It is also important to promote compliance strategies and implement labour inspection services so that risk factors are duly identified. All countries in South Asia have already put OSH in their priorities. Boonpala said that India and Nepal shares a good collaboration on OSH and that more such collaborations must emerge within the South Asian region. She stressed how a strong preventive culture is a must.

Shankar Agarwal, Secretary MoLE, said, “India is getting into manufacturing in a big way and this means ensuring highest standard of safety and health. South Asia is important for multilateral cooperation in the area of OSH. This is the first meeting of its kind in the area of occupational safety and health among experts from South Asian countries.” He spoke of the critical need to provide statutory framework that provides administrative technical support, and eases industrial processes so as to ensure effective control systems regarding OSH. Speaking of the famous Bhopal gas tragedy and Bangladesh Rana Plaza garment industry disaster, Agarwal said that action at the preventive level is what is needed. Safety and health of workers has a positive impact on productivity and the government perceives it as a fundamental human right. “Our OSH standards should be preventive and proactive. Safety awareness must be raised to greater heights. Modern techniques of inspection, monitoring, experience-sharing, are also important steps to improve OSH”. He spoke of the incentives the Government of India has issued to encourage good practices. Some of these are - National Safety Award, Vishwakarma Rashtriya Puraskar, and Prime Minister Shram Award to recognize best practices. The secretary said that this meeting will help pave the way for India to create a model MoU on collaboration on OSH for South Asia.