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Rediff.com  » Business » How safe is India Inc for its employees?

How safe is India Inc for its employees?

May 03, 2018 08:28 IST

Eight of the 30 companies in the BSE Sensex that shared data reported 99 fatalities in 2016-17 against 86 in the previous year.

These lives were lost due to industrial accidents at manufacturing facilities. Fatalities owing to road accidents were excluded from the count.

Sustainability reports submitted by some of India’s large companies throw light on safety standards at plants as well as on the number of fatalities.

 

Eight of the 30 companies in the BSE Sensex that shared data reported 99 fatalities in 2016-17 against 86 in the previous year.

These lives were lost due to industrial accidents at manufacturing facilities. Fatalities owing to road accidents were excluded from the count.

These eight companies together employed about 880,000 employees in the last financial year.

Banking, financial services, software companies and firms where fatalities data was not shared were excluded from the BSE Sensex companies list as of March 2017.

Engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, State-run miner Coal India, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, port operator Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, steelmaker Tata Steel, and consumer products manufacturer ITC are the eight companies whose sustainability reports were examined.

“ITC has a well-structured approach to safety that is focused on ensuring zero harm for all workers, employees and visitors within our business premises.

"The number of loss time accidents, of which fatalities are a subset, have reduced significantly, with the total number of employees having tripled,” said Sanjib Bezbaroa, executive vice-president and head, corporate environment health and safety, ITC.

Six of the eight companies did not share any response beyond what the sustainability report shared as.

The eight companies in reference are a small sample and also likely to have the best safety standards in the country.

Data shared by the ministry of labour and employment with the Lok Sabha pegs the number of fatal workplace injuries at 1,135 for the year 2016.

Of these, Gujarat reported the highest number of fatal injuries at 272 in 2016. The number of non-fatal injuries across India in the same year was 5,309, according to the ministry.

“If we are to analyse the safety performance statistics of the top companies and see them performing only average on this front, then the performance of Tier II and Tier III companies will be even less encouraging,” said Yasir Ahmad, partner, sustainability and responsible business advisory, PwC.

“India’s working conditions can definitely improve. Such data needs to be periodically studied and there needs to be some impetus from companies to improve this metric,” said Shriram Subramanian, managing director at proxy advisory firm InGovern.

Of the eight companies, Coal India reported the largest number of fatalities at 56 lives lost in 2016 and 38 lost in 2015.

The labour ministry has in the past admitted to safety issues at certain coal mines in India.

India’s large dependence on contract labour may be another reason leading to industrial safety issues.

“Contract labour is a fluctuating workforce, and are often less trained on safety aspects. This could perhaps explain the reason why this band of workforce often scores low on safety performance statistics,” Ahmad pointed out.

According to the labour ministry’s response to a question in Parliament in April 2017, the number of contract labourers employed in the central government and central public sector undertakings was 1.84 million.

Photograph: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters.

Amritha Pillai in Mumbai
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