Occupational healthy and safety (Indian context)

Psychologists are concerned with the theoretical considerations of accident causation and the research into accident control, through proper selection, training and education of the employee; and the social and psychological factors that influence the individual's behaviour in general. Engineers and safety officers usually render necessary practical advice on certain aspects of safety in the industry. They look upon prevention of accidents basically as an engineering problem to be tackled through proper designing of mechanical safety devices. In fact, accident prevention and safety are inter-related and, therefore, require a multi-dimensional approach. Its importance has increased because of large-scale industrialisation in which human beings are subject to mechanical, chemical, electrical and radiation hazards.

Industrial Accident and Industrial Injury

An industrial accident may be defined as "an occurrence which interrupts or interferes with the orderly progress of work in an industrial establishment." According to the Factories Act of 1948, it is "an occurrence in an industrial establishment causing bodily injury to a person which makes him unfit to resume his duties in the next 48 hours." In other words, it is an unexpected event which is neither-anticipated nor designed to occur. It is always sudden for a gradual process does not constitute or accident.

An industrial injury has been defined as "a personal injury to an employee which has bee-caused by an accident or an occupational disease, and which arises out of, or in the course of, employment, and which would entitle such an employee to compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923."

Causes of Accidents

According to safety experts, there are three basic causes/factors that contribute to accidents in organisations. Chance occurrences, unsafe conditions and unsafe acts on the part of employees.

1. Unsafe Conditions (work-related causes):

are the biggest cause of accidents. Such causes are associated with defective plants, equipment, tools materials, buildings etc. These can be termed 'technical causes.' They arise when there are improper or inadequate safety guards on machines; when machines break down; when improper personal: protection equipment is installed; when mechanical or construction designs are defective and unsafe and when control devices, which have been installed to make the operation of machines safe and accident free are lacking or defective; or when there is an absence of proper maintenance and supervision of these devices.

Thus, unsafe conditions include:

    • Improperly guarded equipment.

    • Defective equipment.

    • Hazardous arrangement or procedure in and or around, machines or equipment.

    • Unsafe storage; congestion, overloading.

    • Inadequate safety devices.

    • Wrong and faulty lay-out, and bad location.

    • Improper illumination — glare, insufficient light.

    • Improper ventilation — insufficient air charge, impure air source.

    • Poor house-keeping.

The other work related causes of accidents are:

a) The job itself: Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others, such as the job of crane man in comparison to that of the foreman. Similarly, work in some departments (like personnel) is inherently safer than the work in others (like production department).

b) Work schedules, accidents increase late in the day. They do not usually occur during the early hours of the work day. They are more frequent during the night shift. This is due partly to fatigue and partly to the fact that night is the period when one requires rest.

c) Psychological climate of the work place also affects the accident rate. Psychological, mental and emotional imbalances are at the root of several accidents.

2. Unsafe Acts:

These acts may be the result of lack of knowledge or skill on the part of the employee, certain physical defects and wrong attitudes. These acts include acts like:

    • Operating without authority.

    • Failing to secure equipment or warning other employees of possible danger.

    • Failing to use safe attire or personal protective equipment.

    • Throwing materials on the floor carelessly.

    • Operating or working at unsafe levels of speed, either too fast or too slow.

    • Making safety devices inoperative by removing, adjusting, disconnecting them.

    • Using unsafe equipment or using equipment unsafely.

    • Using unsafe procedures in loading, placing, mixing, combining.

    • Taking unsafe positions, under suspended loads.

    • Lifting improperly.

    • Cleaning, adjusting, oiling, repairing, etc. or moving a dangerous equipment.

    • Distracting, teasing, abusing, startling, quarrelling, day-dreaming, horseplay.

Personal Characteristics also influence accident behaviours of individuals. For example, characteristics like personality and motivation serve as a basis for certain behaviour tendencies such as tendencies to take risks and undesirable attitudes.

Statutory Provisions for Safety In India Under the Factories Act, 1948

Facts [+]

India. The Factories act 1948 >> was enacted in the year 1948. The main objective of this law is to maintain healthy, safety and welfare of every employee at workplace in factory . According to this law any factory with above 500 workers should have separate welfare officer, factory with 1000 above workers should have separate safety officer, for 500 workers should have ambulance facility and for above 250 workers canteen facility with concession should be provided.

The Factories Act, 1948, insists the following preventive measures must be adopted in industrial establishments:

1. Cleanliness:

Every factory should be kept clean and free from effluvia - from drain and privy refuse, and from dirt. It should be whitewashed at least once in 1 4 months or painted at least once in five years. Floors should be swept and cleaned, at least once every week, with some disinfecting fluid.

2. Disposal of Wastes and Effluents:

Effective arrangements should be made for their disposal and/or treatment.

3. Ventilation and Temperature:

Provision should be made for the circulation of fresh air, and temperature should be maintained by building walls and roofs of such materials as would keep it within reasonable limits. High temperature may be controlled by whitewashing, spraying and insulating the factory premises and by screening outside walls, roofs and windows.

4. Dust and Fumes:

Effective measures should be taken to prevent, or at any rate reduce, the inhalation and accumulation of dust and fumes. Exhaust appliances should be used near the point of the origin of dust and fumes.

5. Lighting:

Sufficient and suitable lighting, natural or artificial or both should be made available in the factory premises,

6. Overcrowding:

No room should be overcrowded. There should be at least 500 cu. ft. of space for every worker.

7. Drinking Water:

A sufficient quantity of cool drinking water should be made available for the employees throughout the year, particularly during the hot summer months.

8. Latrines and Urinals:

Adequate latrines and urinals should be separately provided for men and women employees.

9. First Aid Appliances:

There should be an adequate number of boxes containing first aid materials, qualified personnel to administer first aid, and an ambulance or at least a room where an injured employee may be given first aid.

Safety Officer:

where 500 or more workers employed in a factory, there should be safety officer

The role of a safety officer in an organization should be:

    1. To formulate safety procedure, safety policy, safety requirements and standard of the company.

    2. To promote schemes to guarantee observance of legal requirements.

    3. To act as chairman or secretary or, in any other capacity on the works safety committees.

    4. To promote formation of such committees, where they do not exist.

    5. To administer safety suggestion schemes.

    6. To organise safety education, training, publicity at various levels of company's operations.

    7. To investigate the causes of industrial injuries and the circumstances leading to accidents.

    8. To prepare and circulate accident stabilities.

    9. To act in close liaison with governmental and non-governmental agencies.

    10. To co-ordinate the safety effort of the company in every possible way.

    11. To assess critically the safety performance of the organisation and if necessary, conduct safety training programmes and feedback sessions on an ongoing basis.

    12. To perform the job of a salesman of safety to the top executives, and as a technician, planner, organiser and stimulator of safety.


Importance of Industrial Health

Since a large number of workers spend a great deal of their time in an industrial setting, their environment is not usually conducive to a healthy life. Moreover, malnutrition, insanitary and psychological conditions, and the strains and stresses under which they live impair their health. "On the one hand, efficiency in work is possible only when an employee is healthy; on the other, the industry (in which he is employed) exposes him to certain hazards which he would not meet elsewhere and which may affect his health. It is with the intention of reducing these hazards and improving the worker's health that the discipline of industrial health came into being as a branch of public health in its own right." The symptoms of bad health area high' rate of absenteeism and turnover, industrial discontent and indiscipline, poor performance and low productivity. That is the reason why, when industrial health programmes are introduced, both employers and workers benefit. A reduction in the rate of labour turnover, absenteeism, accidents and occupational diseases have been the natural consequence of industrial health programmes. The other benefits, which cannot be easily measured, include reduced spoilage, improved morale, increased productivity per employee and a longer working period of an individual.

Occupational Hazards and Risks

Employees in an industrial establishment are often subject to certain health hazards and occupational diseases.

According to Roland Blake, the normal occupational health hazards may be classified into chemical, biological, environmental, and psychological hazards.5

Chemical substances, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, hydro-carbons, ozone, sulfuric acid, acetic acid, fumeric acid and tannic acid, limes and alkalies cause injury when they are absorbed by the skin, or when they are ingested or inhaled. The results are often disastrous. Workers may suffer from respiratory diseases, skin diseases, allergy, heart disease, cancer and neurological disorders, all of which often shorten life expectancy. The disease or sickness may be chronic or acute, and it may appear after a long dormant period, when it may be difficult or impossible to treat it effectively. Often, a disease may be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are not apparent at all.

Gases, fumes and dust raised by such processes as grinding and crushing of stones or minerals may be inhaled by workers and cause a serious injury, or even death. Coalminers often suffer from what is known as "black lung" disease. Employees in manufacturing industries are often exposed to such health hazards as arise from dust and fumes, while those working on lead or zinc smelters often show indications of zinc or lead poisoning.

Among the biological hazards are included diseases which are caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, insects, dietary deficiencies, excessive drinking, imbalances, allergies, brain fever, tetanus, emotional stresses and strains with their psychological concomitants of fear, rage, worry and anxiety. All these affect the health of employees.

Among the environmental hazards may be included radiation, noise, vibrations, shocks, and improper atmospheric conditions.

The increasing use of X-rays or radioactive isotopes exposes the workers, in an industrial setting, to the risks of undetected radiation, and may cause redness of eyes, and pain, genetic disorders, cancer, sterility or even death.

Noise is another serious problem. Many manufacturing processes are accompanied by such noise as is capable of impairing the hearing of a worker, making him irritable and inefficient,'and making it difficult if not impossible for him to hear any warning cries of an impending danger.6 It has been found that a worker may suffer substantial damage if the noise level is above 80 decibels (1,200 cycles per second). There may be temporary or permanent deafness, nervousness, difficulty in communication and loss of efficiency.

Occupational Diseases

Occupational diseases are the results of physical conditions and the presence of industrial poisonous and non-poisonous dust in the atmosphere. Raw materials, products, by-products and waste products may, in the process of being extracted or manufactured enter the body in such quantities as to endanger the health of the workers. For example, workers on lead (as cable makers, lead pipe makers, compositors, painters, plumbers, etc.) are subject to "painter's colic" or "wrist drop" disease which may result in loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, muscular and joint pains, anaemia and intestinal disorders; and it might even cause death.

The Schedule attached to Sections 89 and 90 of the Factories Act, 1948, specially mentions the following occupational diseases which have to be notified to the authorities under the Act:

    1. Lead poisoning, including poisoning resulting from any compound at lead or its sequel,

    2. Lead tetra-ethyl poisoning.

    3. Phosophorous poisoning

    4. Manganese poisoning or its sequel

    5. Mercury poisoning.

    6. Arsenic poisoning.

    7. Poisoning from nitrous fumes.

    8. Carbon bisulphide poisoning.

    9. Benzene poisoning.

    10. Chrome ulceration.

    11. Anthrax.

    12. Silicosis.

    13. Poisoning from halogens or halogen derivatives of the hydro-carbon of the alphabet : series.

    14. Pathological manifestations due to

      1. Radium or other radio-active substances; and

      2. X-rays.

    15. Primary cancer of the skin.

    16. Toxic jaundice due to poisonous substances.

    17. Dermatitis due to the action of mineral oil.

    18. Bysionosis.

    19. Asbestosis.

    20. Toxic anaemia.

    21. Occupational or contract dermatitis caused by direct contact with chemicals and paints.

    22. Loss of hearing induced by noise.

In addition to the above, the following diseases have been included under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923:

    1. a) Occupational contract caused by infra-red radiation;

    2. b) Telegraphist's cramp; and

    3. c) Begassoise.

Protection against Health Hazards

An industrial establishment should protect its employees against health hazards:

    • By substituting a less toxic substance for the hazardous chemical, by isolating the process, or

    • By providing protective clothing, handling and warning devices, and by providing safety education;

    • By ensuring that firms using radiation in their manufacturing process insist that their employees

    • wear badges which indicate the amount of radiation they have been exposed to;

    • By controlling noise in factories, by segregating noisy equipment, by dampening vibration, or by redesigning noisy equipment or by the use of vibration-absorbing material at certain points. The employee may be asked to wear ear-coverings or ear-plugs;

    • By devoting adequate attention to lighting, temperature, and atmospheric conditions, by controlling dust, fumes and gases, and by providing protective devices, clothing, goggles and shields.