Maintaining high industrial safety standards is necessary as these are influencing free trade agreements and their non-compliance can lead to trade barriers affecting India’s economic growth, a senior official said.
Addressing the 10th FICCI Awards & Conference for Excellence in Safety Systems here, Union Labour Secretary Arti Ahuja underscored the pivotal role of robust industrial safety standards in safeguarding India's trajectory towards becoming the third-largest global economy.
With safety provisions increasingly influencing free trade agreements (FTAs), Ahuja highlighted the imperative of maintaining high safety standards to avoid these being used as potential trade barriers that could restrict India’s growth.
"In the context of India’s rapid economic growth and its integration into global markets, it is crucial that we address safety and labour issues, as non-compliance could lead to non-tariff trade barriers, impeding our growth story," Ahuja said, signalling the intertwining of industrial safety with the nation’s economic prosperity.
In her address, Ahuja drew on tangible examples to illustrate the urgency of her message, notably the innovative use of software in ESIC (Employees' State Insurance Corporation) hospitals to detect and respond to occupational health issues.
The state-of-the-art software employed across 160 ESIC hospitals has enabled the mapping of patterns related to occupational diseases, a proactive measure drawing from the data analysis strategies used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The evidence thus produced has been instrumental in engaging industry stakeholders and State governments, urging them to adhere to safety standards and prevent occupational hazards.
She invited FICCI to collaborate with her Ministry in this exercise of Occupational disease mapping and how to address it.
Alok Bansidhar Shriram, President of the All India Organisation of Employers (AIOE) and Senior Managing Director & CEO of DCM Shriram Industries underlined the critical importance of safety in the workplace.
"Safety at the workplace is not just a statutory requirement but a moral imperative," he emphasised.
Citing ILO global estimates, Shriram revealed the staggering 2.78 million work-related deaths recorded annually, with associated economic costs representing around 3.94 per cent of the world’s GDP.
"These figures are not just numbers but a clarion call for action," he stated.
A focal point of his address was the critical examination of certain provisions under the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2019 that need to be decriminalised.
He urged the government to reconsider the provisions that prescribe imprisonment for CEOs and directors, even for minor operational non-compliances suggesting that higher fines could serve as a deterrent for any violations.
On occasion, the FICCI Safety Handbook was also released. The handbook elaborates on the entire award process and details about the awardees and their best practices.