Workers’ safety to be ensured in the province

Published: November 18, 2017
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Workers' safety has been a long-ignored topic in Pakistan. PHOTO: Syed Hassam Hussain

Workers' safety has been a long-ignored topic in Pakistan. PHOTO: Syed Hassam Hussain

KARACHI: After the emergence of a number of harrowing tales of deaths and injuries due to lack of safety measures at workplaces in Sindh over the past few years, the Sindh government finally passed on Friday the Sindh Occupational Safety and Health Bill, 2017 to ensure a decent working environment and health and safety of workers in the province.

Moving the bill, Parliamentary Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said that after the law is implemented, every employer will be responsible for providing a safe workplace to their employees. “There is a federal law on this issue, but after the 18th Amendment we are now going to enact our own law,” Khuhro told the assembly members.

According to the law, the government will establish a council, comprising the labour secretary, government representatives from the industries department, Sindh Building Control Authority, health department, Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, local government fire department, three members from civil society and four members each from the workers trade union and employers as well as four professionals, at least one of whom should be a woman. The council will advise the government on matters relating to workplace safety and recommend amendments to the law.

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“It will be the duty of every employer to ensure all possible practicable measures in respect to safety, health and welfare of workers in the workplace,” the law reads, adding that each employer has to provide and maintain tools, machinery, equipment and appliances which are safe  and do not pose risks to the workers’ health.

The law states that  there will be arrangements at workplaces to control and prevent physical, chemical, biological, radiological and any other hazards that affect the safely and health of workers and other persons at the workplace.

After the law, the employer of any factory or company will have to ensure that measures are taken to safeguard workers’ safety such as adequate first-aid arrangements to deal with emergencies, dangerous occurrences, accidents and industrial disasters. “The owners of companies have to take all practical measures for prevention of fires and safety measures to deal with them,” the law read, adding that employers have to ensure cleanliness at workplaces, freedom from nuisances, noise, fumes and artificial humidification, ventilation, proper temperature control, disposal of waste and effluent as well as drinking water.

In every factory or company, the election of occupational safety and health representatives from amongst the workers is mandatory. The representatives will represent workers in all matters relating to safety, health and welfare at work and may report impending threats, accidents, injuries and fatal injuries to the government.

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However, a safety and health officer will also be appointed at companies or factories with more than 49 workers. “It shall be the duty of the health and safety officer to cooperate with and assist the employer to promote and develop measures to ensure the safety, health and welfare of workers,” read the law. “Each worker will be provided a safety hygiene card after examination by a qualified medical practitioner,” the law stated, adding that if the worker is found to be suffering from any contagious, infectious and occupational disease on examination, the employer has to provide him appropriate medical treatment with paid leave.

“An employer or self-employed person cannot not construct a workplace unless its plan is approved by the government and its designated authority,” according to chapter two of the bill. It adds that the government will appoint inspectors to monitor compliance. The chief inspector of factories will work as the chief safety and health inspector to check the overall performance of factories or companies under this law.

Punishment and penalties safety have been suggested if any employer obstructs inspectors from inspecting a factory or workplace and fails to follow the law. In case of lack of safety and health measures at a workplace, the owner can be fined up to Rs250,000. Those who fail to produce records to inspectors will be penalised with a Rs50,000 fine.  There are different categories of fines, ranging from Rs50, 000 to Rs250, 000, depending on the infraction.

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