Factory inspections - II
Techniques of inspection in each of the provinces: (a) At least one thorough inspection of each factory must be carried out once every six months and omissions or defects brought to the notice of the management. In case of repetition of offence, both fine and sentence till rising of court be effected on the erring employer in case of filing of false complaint, the Inspector of Factories be taken to task, removed from service and heavy fine be imposed so as to eliminate chances of blackmail of the employers by the Inspector of Factories.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
(b) The inspectors should normally discuss all the points observed with the manager and other responsible executives of the factory and try to solve the difficulties, if any, in complying with the requirements of the law or in carrying out their advice or instructions. Advising the management and furnishing technical details and particulars in respect of such matters as safeguarding the machinery, ventilation, lighting, dealing with dangerous substances, etc, should be considered to be an important responsibility of the inspectorate;
(c) Follow-up action should be an essential part of the work of the inspectorate. The follow-up action normally should be in the form of a check on inspection; a few months after the irregularities were pointed out after inspection, so that the advice and shortcomings are ratified by the employers.
(d) In case of every fatal accident and accidents of a serious nature, a thorough enquiry must be conducted expeditiously by the factory inspector and wherever necessary, assistance of the specialised inspector should be taken in conducting investigation; report submitted to Secretary Labour of the province, and the employer. If recommendations are made in the report they be adopted and remedial measures be adopted.
(e) If the complaint is made by name or the complaint is received from a responsible organisation, it should be duly acknowledged; after investigation the complainant should be informed, wherever possible, either verbally or in writing unless the result of the investigation are such as would not require such communications with the complainant;
(f) The normal practice at present which invariably is not followed is to pay surprise visits to factories without intimation to the management or to any other party. This practice has to be continued in consideration of the nature of the work of the inspectorate but in good faith with no element or motive involved;
(g) The factory inspector should develop frequent contacts with the management since his functions include not only detection of violations but also giving advice, guidance and assistance to the management for effective fulfilment of the social objectives of the status;
(h) On account of surprise nature of visits, the factory inspectorate does not come in frequent contact with the workers and their organisations. This creates misapprehensions in their minds. It is essential that the inspectorate should maintain adequate contact with the labour organisations also.
(i) By his attitude, the factory inspector should make it know that any worker could approach him and place his grievance before him. Unless the workers themselves desire so, he should not disclose the name of such worker or workers to the employer as there is a danger of the complaining workers being victimised;
(j) Prosecution should not be the general policy of the inspectorate. In case of recalcitrant employments and repeated offences, the offender must be prosecuted.
(k) To ensure that Inspectors of Factories do not indulge in malpractices, their activities be covered under Information for Fair Trial Law with electronic material, tapped telephones and cell calls be tapped and these Inspectors should submit their annual year Income Tax Returns
Specialists in occupation diseases, health and safety:
(a) It is recommended in another context that every factory inspectorate should have cell of specialists comprising the minimum of one medical inspector, chemical inspector (chemical engineer) and engineering inspector. It is also recommended that every specialist cell must have a well equipped industrial hygiene and chemical laboratory with adequate staff. In addition, the field factory inspectors should also be provided with certain essential equipments, such as velo-meters, hygro-meters, koni-meters, photographic camera, light-meter etc. A catalogue of the minimum equipment which every inspector should be supplied with should be prepared by the Director General Factory Advice Service which should be constituted in each province forthwith;
(b) The specialist inspector should be utilised only for conducting, or assisting the field inspectors in conducting, special enquires and investigations, for advising the field inspectors and keeping them informed of the basic technical information and latest trends and technological developments connected with the work of factories inspectorate. Specialists may advise the management also in solving their problems.
Mobility of Inspectors of Factories, Health and Safety Inspectors:
Since frequent inspection of factories at all odd hours of day and night is essential for the efficient performance of the duties of inspectors, it is of paramount important that the inspectors should be provided adequate vehicular transport. For this purpose, either they should be given a government vehicle or adequate advance and allowance sanctioned to enable them to own, maintain and run their own vehicles. Misuse should be viewed seriously and be set off in case the charges are established from the salary of the delinquent Inspectors.
Existing penal clauses in the Factories Act 1934 are far too lenient. They are a mockery in law. The following changes should be made in the penal clauses of the Act:
(a) In respect of formal offences like those relating to maintenance of registers, records and submission of notices and returns, the existing penal clause appears to be adequate, but their maintenance be ensured. In case of repeated violation, employees be subjected to fine of substantial amount.
(b) Offences relating to safeguarding of machinery or other matters which may result in accidents and occupational diseases should attract more rigorous sanctions. For such offences, a minimum penalty should be provided for in the Act which may included both sentence to prison and or huge fines.
(c) In case of violation, which results in fatal accidents, the penalty should be imprisonment and not fine, provided wilful, deliberate and indifferent attitude accompanied with gross negligence is established. All workers be compulsorily insured by employer with State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan in case of death whilst working inside the factory be it natural or accidental death.
(d) The penal clauses in the Mines Act are totally inadequate. Penalty and Insurance as in case of Factories Act be extended to Mines under Mines Act.
The experience of all the factory inspectors has been that the courts do not appreciate the significance of the offences under the social legislation. What is more, they are not orientated to understand the significance of such social legislation. The result is that they treat these offences lightly: the offenders are let off with minor punishments of nominal fines. This creates an impression in the minds of the employers that these offences are trivial and they do not loose much if they violate any of the provisions of the Acts. Minor punishments, therefore have an effect which is just the opposite of what punishments are supposed to create. There is, therefore, the necessity for establishing Judicial Factories Courts wherein all cases of prosecution under the Factories Act may be heard and tried. Till this suggestion is adopted existing Labour Courts in each Province, as against magistrates, as at present, should be the Court where challan of such offence be filed and decision taken by Labour Courts of violations of law including Factories.
Since many offences under the Factories Act involve intricate technical aspects, there should be a provision in the Act under which a specialist assessor may be appointed to assist the Labour Court whenever prayed for by any party.
The Royal Commission on Labour in Pre-Partition India had discussed in its report the various aspects relating to working conditions in factories. Whilst dealing with the health, safety and welfare of factory workers, the Commission had reviewed the general administration of the Factories Act. In the course of discussion on the "Safety Aspects", the Commission had presented data relating to 'reported' accidents during the years 1922-29 in all factories subject to the Factories Act. The Commission had drawn attention to the fact that the accidents showed a rising trend during the period under review. While recognising that the rise in the incidence of accidents might have been largely due to better reporting, the Commission had observed that the fact that there was definitely an increase in the 'risks' run by factory workers could not be ignored. The Commission had stressed the need for setting up of 'Safety Committees' and for taking all measures for inculcating safety consciousness in the workers.
The Commission had also drawn attention to the fact that many manufacturing processes were responsible for the dissemination of large amounts of dust and that arrangements for their elimination were mostly defective. It had been emphasised in the report that proper attention should be paid to the general cleanliness in factories and that the powers under the Factories Act should be extensively used to improve working conditions in factories to eliminate health hazards. The Commission also had made elaborate recommendations relating to provision of first aid water supply, crèches, canteens and welfare amenities. To improve the administration of Factories Act, the Commission had made specific recommendations for strengthening of the inspectorate and for the appointment of medical inspectors. This report be carefully examined and recommendations where feasible be adopted in each of the Province.
The Labour Investigating Committee set up under the Chairmanship of Shri D. D. Rege by the Government of India, had observed in its Report (1946) that the safety provisions were not always observed by the employers and that inspection was inadequate and enforcement unsatisfactory. As such, the Committee had stressed the necessity for providing suitable machinery to attend to accident prevention aspects and to the early diagnosis and treatment of occupational diseases in factories and mines. Copy of this report be obtained by our High Commission in India, studied and where necessary its recommendations be adopted.
Dr Thomas Bedford in his Report on the "Health of the Industrial Worker in India" (1946) drew attention inter alia to the inadequacy of protection afforded to Indian factory workers from dangerous dusts and to the importance of keeping careful watch on industries in which organic solvents and radio active materials were used. He emphasised the need not only for a substantial increase in the number of factory inspectors in all the States but also to the necessity of imparting proper training to them, factory inspection being a highly technical job requiring the knowledge of a wide range of subjects. Even copy of this Report be obtained by our Embassy in India, its recommendations be studied and adopted, if found feasible.
Occupational Diseases in Factories:
Many of the occupational diseases are now modifiable under the Factories Act and many of them have been brought under the purview of the Workmen's Compensation Act. But, unfortunately the statistics with regard to the occupational diseases are far from satisfactory. This may perhaps be due to want of adequate knowledge on the part of the concerned physician to identify occupational diseases and perhaps also due to the large labour turnover in the country. Some of the studies carried out in India by the Directorate General, Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes during the last few years have focused attention on the high incidence of occupational diseases in many industries. Thus, in an All-India Industrial Hygiene Survey conducted in the storage battery manufacturing industry, it was found that out of 482 men medically examined, 52 persons, ie 10.6% showed indefinite signs and symptoms of early lead poisoning. The environmental studies carried out clearly established that the high incidence of lead poisoning amongst the workers was entirely due to unsatisfactory working conditions in the factories concerned. Unfortunately in Pakistan, neither in Punjab, nor in Sindh any such survey has been conducted by the Provincial Directorate of Labour. This calls for action by our elected Chief Ministers of the Four Provinces and at the Centre.
In an All-India survey carried out in the dichromate manufacturing industry, it was notified that the working conditions in the factories were generally unsatisfactory, the health and safety measures being in most cases overlooked. This has led to a high incidence of chrome ulceration amongst the exposed workers; skin affection was found in 132 workers ie 20.9 percent of the total number of persons examined, in 124 workers ie 19.7 percent suffering, typical skin ulcerations were detected, and nasal cartilage perforations were found in 132 workers ie 20.9 percent, and nasal mucosal ulcerations in 130 workers, ie 20.6 percent. Unfortunately no such survey in our country has so far been conducted.
In a detailed study carried out in the pottery and ceramic industry in India, it was observed that the incidence of silicosis amongst workers with more than 5 years of service was 15.7 percent (127 out of a total number of 808 workers examined.) This was due to working conditions being extremely unsatisfactory in most of the factories, as was brought out by the environmental studies. Again no such survey in Pakistan, to our knowledge, has been conducted.
An industrial hygiene study conducted in a ferro-manganese plant indicated that toxic hazards were present in many situations and that the incidence of manganese poisoning amongst the workers was extremely high; out of a total of 179 persons examined, 62 persons were found to have signs and symptoms of manganese poisoning. Yet again no survey in our country has been conducted.
It may be observed that during the recent years, only few organised industries have come to realise the gravity of the problem presented by health hazards and the consequent necessity to be on a constant vigil to eliminate such hazards.
Repeatedly time and again in this thesis, reference to survey and reports of India are referred as there is total apathy and lack of realisation to undertake these surveys in our country. If we are ill equipped to conduct these surveys, for any reason, the least that can be done is to obtain all reports, thesis, analysis, reports of Commission given in India, examine their recommendations and ensure that we take advantage of what has been done for the welfare of Labour in our neighbouring country.
From the foregoing research, it may be seen that the working conditions in many factories are generally not satisfactory in Pakistan. It is essential, therefore, to pay greater attention than at present to the subject of safety and health in factories. It is, therefore, for consideration as to how best this objective could be achieved. Are the different rules framed under the Factories Act enough to meet all exigencies? How best can it be ensured that all dangerous parts of machinery are guarded and accidents eliminated? Is it possible to improve the system of training for foremen and workers to as to avoid accidents due to unsafe acts? Is the present publicity work to promote safety in factories enough? In this connection, it is also for consideration as to how far the National Safety Awards recently instituted by the Government of India meet the purposes for which they are meant. Can the system relating to these awards be improved to achieve better results if adopted in our country?
Some of the factories, especially those which had been set up during World War II and immediately thereafter, could not be considered to be quite satisfactory from the industrial hygiene point of view. The factories which are coming up recently of course have fairly good industrial hygiene practices, specially Fertiliser Plants, mainly because at the blue-print stage they are scrutinised and then approved with whatever modifications, as may be considered necessary by those setting up these factories. Even so, due to the complex nature of the industries now being set up in the country, there is always the risk to health from toxic substances. Is it possible to introduce suitable engineering control measures in such factories to eliminate health hazards? Can the inspection services be improved and suitably equipped so that it would be possible to make an appraisal of the potential hazards in manufacturing process and to evolve proper control measures in time? These and related questions naturally will have to be given serious considerations by the Chief Inspectors of Factories in each of the Province and at Islamabad.
Some suggestions which may be considered in this connection are the following:
1. The Labour Ministers' Conference held in 1960 in India had recommended that the State Factory Inspectorates should be further strengthened by having at least one Inspector for every 150 factories so as to ensure that no factory goes uninspected at least twice in a year. This recommendation should be implemented without any further delay, especially as the licensing fees for factories have been introduced for this purpose in this country.
2. At the present stage of technological development, it is necessary from the view of administrative efficiency to accord proper status to the Inspection Service. Industry should be made conscious that in respect of safety, health and working conditions, the Chief Inspector of Factories is the appropriate authority to look to for guidance and help.
3. In order to prevent accidents, it would be desirable that there should be a safety officer appointed in all factories employing 1000 workers or more.
4. For the past two years the Government of India have been operating National Safety Awards Scheme which are applicable to industrial undertakings covered by the Factories Act and working at least one million man-hours in a year. The Government of India have also suggested to State Government to operate Safety Award Schemes for smaller factories. Excepting perhaps in one or two States, the Scheme has not been implemented so far. It is suggested that all the provincial governments in Pakistan should frame Award Schemes and operate them as early as possible on the same pattern.
5. Safety Committees consisting of representatives of managements and labour are functioning in some of the progressive concerns in India. No information is available of such Committees functioning in Pakistan. One of their functions should be investigate all serious accidents to find out their causes and to suggest preventive measures to the management. Another important function of the Safety Committees should be organised safety publicity work in factories. These safety Committees can play an affective role in reducing accidents and it is, therefore, suggested that small factories, say even those employing at least 250 workers, should also set up safety committees in their plants. Initially this experiment be undertaken in the Province of Sindh and Punjab, and gradually extended to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in Balochistan.
6. Every endeavour should be made to impart training in safety to supervisors and all workers including those newly recruited.
7. All factories should be advised to operate 'Suggestion Schemes' and rewards should be given to workers making important suggestions in regard to safety.
8. All factories, particularly those in which hazardous operations are carried out, should be encouraged to get industrial hygiene and safety surveys conducted by competent organisations and should be asked to implement the measures commended.
9. Those which still do not have medical inspectors of factories should be directed to appoint them without any further delay.
10. Every Inspectorate of Factories in the Provincial Headquarter should also have a laboratory equipped for carrying out industrial hygiene studies, especially those of a routine nature.
11. It is recommended that every Province should also have a Chief Chemical Inspector and other District level Chemical Inspectors with adequate training in the principles and practices of industrial hygiene.
(To be continued)