The Union Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav stated that the Centre notified four labour codes in consonance with the norms set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The proposed four labour codes subsuming 29 existing labour laws have been notified by the Central Government between 2019 & 2020. In the interest of brevity, this article examines the norms set by the ILO with reference Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code,2020.
India is one of the founding members of the ILO. The instruments of the ILO provide guidelines and a useful framework for the evolution of legislative and administrative measures for the protection and advancement of labour.
International Labour Organization
The ILO was created in 1919 by the signatory nations of the Treaty of Versailles. The ILO formulated legal components as a part of its strategy so that everyone can work with dignity and safety. These legal components were drawn by the representatives of governments, employers, and workers from around the world covering all matters related to work. They are established by the ILO as international labour standards in the form of international Conventions or Protocols and Recommendations.
International Standards set out by the ILO
The international labour standards / Conventions are legally binding international treaties which are ratified by the Member States. Recommendations are the non-binding guidelines which are usually linked to a convention and can also be autonomous. Once a standard is adopted, it generally comes into force for the country one year after the date of ratification. Conventions are applied by the ratifying countries into national laws, practice and their applications are reported to the ILO at regular intervals. ILO provides technical assistance if necessary.
Eight conventions are identified as fundamental conventions by the ILO Governing Body which cover subjects considered to be fundamental principles and rights at work. They are Conventions numbered 87, 98, 29 including 2014 Protocol, 105, 138, 182, 100 & 111.
Once it has ratified a Convention or Protocol, a country is subject to the ILO regular supervisory system, which is responsible for ensuring that the instrument is applied.
ILO Conventions, Recommendations & Protocols on OSH
One of the continuing objectives of the ILO since its inception has been to promote decent, safe, and healthy working conditions and environments. To uphold its principle that workers must be protected from sickness, diseases and injury arising out of employment, the ILO has set out standards on occupational safety and health. These standards provide essential tools for governments, employers, and workers to establish practices that provide for maximum safety at work. Core ILO standards as identified by the ILO on OSH are Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187), Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), and its Protocol of 2002, Occupational Health Services Convention, 1985 (No. 161).
Several other conventions on OSH for:
Safety and health in particular branches of economic activity are the Hygiene (Commerce and Offices) Convention, 1964 (No. 120), Occupational Safety and Health (Dock Work) Convention, 1979 (No. 152), Safety and Health in Construction Convention, 1988 (No. 167), Safety and Health in Mines Convention, 1995 (176), Safety and Health in Agriculture Convention, 2001 (No. 184).
Protection against specific risks is Radiation Protection Convention, 1960 (No. 115), Occupational Cancer Convention, 1974 (No. 139), Working Environment (Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration) Convention, 1977 (No. 148), Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162), Chemicals Convention, 1990 (No. 170).
Position in respect of Indian framework
India has not ratified Convention No 87 and No 98 out of the core ILO conventions. India has ratified a total of 47 ILO conventions and 1 protocol. 39 of them are in force, 5 are denounced and 4 are abrogated .
The ILO has adopted more than 40 Conventions and Recommendations specifically dealing with occupational safety and health, as well as over 40 codes of practice. India has ratified six OSH related conventions so far.
Major OSH laws and regulations in India are based on the Directive Principles of State Policy as provided in the Constitution of India and international instruments. Currently, comprehensive safety and health statutes for regulating Occupational Safety and Health at workplaces mainly exist in respect of the four sectors namely, manufacturing, mining, ports, and construction.
Law on OSH in India
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 of India was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 19th September 2020, passed by the lower house on 22nd September 2020, by the upper house on 23rd September 2020 and received the assent of the President on 28th September 2020. The Code replaces 13 laws regulating the health, safety and working conditions of workers. It has a total of 143 sections spread over 13 chapters and 3 schedules dealing with a list of Industries involving hazardous processes (the First Schedule), laying down standards in matters about Occupational safety and health standards (the Second Schedule) and the list of notifiable diseases (the Third Schedule) as per the requirement of section 12(1) of the Code concerning notice of certain diseases. The Code does not cover all the sectors of economic activity.
Review and Way forward
Comprehensive legislation on OSH covering all the sectors of economic activities, except the workplaces getting covered under the existing legislations, needs to be developed.
India has significantly used conventions as a standard of reference for labour legislations and practices. A safer recourse of not ratifying Conventions has been adopted to avoid legally binding obligations. Conventions are being ratified only if the local laws and practices conform with the relevant ILO conventions. Following the above method, policies and laws on other vital areas related to health and safety in working environments concerning agricultural sector amongst others should be brought out.
Existing policies such as the National Policy on Safety, Health and Environment at Workplace and other legislations should be implemented in true letter and spirit by both central and state governments.
Point to ponder upon
By adopting a safe play approach, is it safe to say that the OSH Code is in consonance with the ILO norms?