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Labour Issues Increasingly Getting Discussed in Trade Agreements: Secretary Labour

Nov 02, 2023

Robust Safety Systems Paramount in India's Quest for Global Economic Dominance - Arti Ahuja, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment

10th FICCI Awards for Excellence in Safety Systems announced


New Delhi, November 02, 2023:  At the 10th FICCI Awards & Conference for Excellence in Safety Systems, Ms Arti Ahuja, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, 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), Secretary 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, Secretary Ahuja remarked, signalling the intertwining of industrial safety with the nation’s economic prosperity.  

In her address, Secretary Ahuja drew on tangible examples to illustrate the urgency of her message, notably the innovative use of software in ESIC 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. 

In his welcome remarks, Mr 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. "It is a matter that concerns the wellbeing of our workforce and the ethical foundation of our businesses.”   

Citing ILO global estimates, Mr 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. "They highlight the urgent need for interventions to create safer workplaces." 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.  

Mr Shyam Bang, Chairman, FICCI Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce, Former Chairman, NABCB and former Executive Director, Jubilant Life Sciences, spotlighted the pivotal role of the manufacturing sector in India's march towards a $5 trillion GDP. With the Government of India's focused vision, he underscored the manufacturing industry as the cornerstone of this ambitious economic expansion.  

Mr Bang identified safety, alongside productivity, quality, and innovation, as one of the fundamental pillars of manufacturing excellence. With the dynamic landscape of technologies and materials, the manufacturing sector faces burgeoning risks, necessitating heightened attention to safety protocols. "Every new technology, material, or personnel inducted into the industry introduces risk factors, making safety an imperative aspect to address," Bang remarked. He also shed light on the prestigious FICCI safety awards, which have seen 99 applications in their 10th edition. "The mere act of applying for an award signifies an organisation's commitment to safety," he noted. The stringent three-stage evaluation process of the awards, incorporating expert audits and presentations before a jury of industry and government veterans, underlines the robustness of safety systems within organisations.  

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. In addition, the 10th FICCI Awards for Excellence in Safety Systems were also announced.  

FICCI Secretary General Mr Shailesh Kumar Pathak noted that business continuity is more important than cost-cutting and avoiding disruptions to business processes. He announced that FICCI would work with the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the ESIC hospitals to identify the root cause of diseases and accidents and persuade FICCI membership to work towards solutions so that these do not happen. In addition, FICCI would seek to work with large corporates in training their entire ecosystem of vendors, contractors, and subcontractors so their business continuity does not get disrupted by safety issues.  

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