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Today we have come up with yet another editorial from The Hindu which talks about Stronger Worker Safety Laws. We have highlighted all difficult words in the editorial and their meanings are given alongside. Such editorial articles efficiently enhance your vocabulary, but it even gives an aspirant a boost as far as reading and understanding of a passage is concerned. Reading comprehension being an important aspect of the English section, series of such vocabulary articles will surely help you in improving that part.

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Factoring in safety: on stronger worker safety law

Major industrial accidents point to the need for a stronger worker safety law

India’s record in promoting occupational and industrial safety remains weak even with years of robust (strong) economic growth. Making work environments safer is a low priority, although the productivity benefits of such investments have always been clear. The consequences are frequently seen in the form of a large number of fatalities (death caused by an accident) and injuries, but in a market that has a steady (happening in a smooth, regular way) supply of labour, policymakers tend to ignore the wider impact of such losses. It will be no surprise, therefore, if the deaths of four people, including a senior officer, in a fire at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation gas facility in Navi Mumbai, or the tragedy that killed nearly two dozen people at a firecracker factory in Batala, Punjab are quickly forgotten. Such incidents make it imperative (extremely important) that the Central government abandon (to leave something, usually for ever) its reductionist (the practice of simplifying a complex issue especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it) approach to the challenge, and engage in serious reform. There is not much evidence, however, of progressive moves. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019, introduced in the Lok Sabha in July to combine 13 existing laws relating to mines, factories, dock workers, building and construction, transport workers, inter-State migrant (person travelling to a different country or place, especially for work) labour and so on, pays little attention to the sector-specific requirements of workers. One of its major shortcomings (a fault or a failure to reach a particular standard) is that formation of safety committees and appointment of safety officers, the latter in the case of establishments with 500 workers, is left to the discretion (the right to decide something) of State governments. Evidently, the narrow stipulation on safety officers confines it to a small fraction of industries. On the other hand, the Factories Act currently mandates appointment of a bipartite (existing in two parts) committee in units that employ hazardous processes or substances, with exemptions being the exception. This provision clearly requires retention in the new Code.

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A safe work environment is a basic right, and India’s recent decades of high growth should have ushered in a framework of guarantees. Unfortunately, successive governments have not felt it necessary to ratify (to make an agreement official) many fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) covering organised and unorganised sector workers’ safety, including the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981. Those ILO instruments cover several areas of activity that the NDA government’s occupational safety Code now seeks to amalgamate (to unite to form a large group or organization), but without the systemic reform that is necessary to empower workers. It is essential, therefore, that the new Code go back to the drawing board for careful scrutiny (careful and detailed examination of something) by experienced parliamentarians, aided by fresh inputs from employees, employers and experts. Industries that use hazardous processes and chemicals deserve particular attention, and the Code must have clear definitions, specifying limits of exposure for workers. Compromising on safety can lead to extreme consequences that go beyond factories, and leave something that is etched in the nation’s memory (remember something very clearly, usually because it has some special importance for the nation) as in the case of the Bhopal gas disaster.


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