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28 -January- 2022

Serious concerns remain about health and safety in India

Serious concerns remain about health and safety in India, says IndustriALL Global Union. In 2021, the Indian manufacturing industry was beset with accidents, with an average of seven accidents reported per month, killing over 162 workers and leaving others disabled for life or badly injured. A number of accidents in the first few weeks of the new year shows that this trend is likely to continue.

On 1 January 2022, four workers were killed in an explosion at a fireworks factory in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu. The explosion led to the collapse of the building and left several workers critically injured. In a similar incident on 5 January, a blast at another firecracker manufacturing unit in Virudhanagar killed three workers.

On 6 January, six workers were killed and 29 other employees of Vishwaprem Mill - a textile dyeing and printing factory - had to be hospitalised after inhaling toxic gas from the Sachin creek in Surat district. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board confirmed that sodium hydrosulphide and sodium thiosulphate were illegally discharged into the natural creek. While the National Green Tribunal has taken up the matter, action from local authorities remains lax.

There was another a chemical leak in Mangalore on 11 January. Twenty employees of a fish processing unit were admitted to a private hospital in Mukka, following a leakage of ammonia. Indian affiliates of IndustriALL Global Union also report accidents in the Northern Coalfield Limited (NCL) mining area: on 10 January a diesel tanker caught fire in Amlorhi Project area in NCL, and on 12 January, a contract worker was killed while cleaning a bunker.

Accidents are a constant feature of working life. On 23 January, one worker was killed and four others were severely injured in Megafine Pharma Company site in Lakhmapur-Nashik due to a reactor fire.

In the last five years, the government has relaxed inspections and licensing to allow self-certification and has exempted some companies from reporting on health and safety to ease business and support small enterprise. Low investment in health and safety, old and decrepit machinery and a lack of training for operating machinery adds to the danger to workers. Industrial accidents sky rocketed once factories resumed work after the three-month long COVID-19 lockdown.

In India, the availability of health and safety inspectors is low in comparison to the density of factories. The effective implementation of health and safety standards has long been a demand of unions and workers.

IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world.

Courtesy: IndustriALL Global Union website

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