News & Views

An important amendment in the OFFING
"The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014"

A few salient features are briefed below for the benefit of readers and OHS professionals.

 

Statement of Objects and Reasons

  1. The Factories Act was enacted in 1948. Its main object is to ensure adequate safety measures and to promote the health and welfare of the workers employed in factories. The Act has been amended in the years 1949, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1970 and 1976. The last amendment to the Factories Act, 1948 was made in the year 1987 as the Factories (Amendment) Act, 1987, wherein a separate Chapter was inserted relating to hazardous process.
  2. There have been several developments over the last twenty years ever since the last amendment was made. These developments include changes in the manufacturing practices and emergence of new technologies, ratification of ILO Conventions, Judicial decision, recommendations of the Committees and decisions taken in the Conferences, of Chief Inspectors of Factories.
  3. In view of above developments and suggestions from various Ministries of the Central Government, employers and trade union representatives, it has been decided to amend the Factories Act, 1948 by an amendment Bill, namely, the Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
  4. The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014, inter alia, provides the following, namely:––
    • 4.1 - to substitute a new section for section 66 of the Act providing further restrictions on employment of women;

      “66. The provisions of this Chapter shall, in their application to women in factories, be supplemented by the following further restrictions, namely:

      1. No exemption from the provisions of section 54 may be granted in respect of any women;
      2. There shall be no change of shifts except after a weekly holiday or any other holiday; and
      3. No woman shall be required or allowed to work in any factory except between the hours of 6 A.M. and 7 P.M.:

        Provided that where the State Government or any person, authorised by it in this behalf, is satisfied that adequate safeguards exist in a factory as regards occupational safety and health, provision of shelter, rest rooms, lunch rooms, night creches and ladies' toilets, equal opportunity for women workers, adequate protection of their dignity, honour and safety, protection from sexual harassment, and their transportation from the factory premises to the door step of their residence, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, after due consultation with, and obtaining the consent of, the women workers, the employer, representative organisation of the employer and representative organisation of workers of the concerned factory or group or class or description of factories, allow women to work between 7.00 P.M. and 6.00 A.M. in such factory or group or class or description of factories, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein:

        Women workers are allowed to work between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in a factory, if the work environment contain adequate safeguards approved by state government.

        Provided further that no such permission shall be granted to a woman worker during a period of sixteen weeks before and after her childbirth, of which at least eight weeks shall be before the expected childbirth, and for such additional period, if any, as specified in the medical certificate stating that it is necessary for the health of the woman worker or her child:

        Provided also that the restriction contained in the preceding proviso may be relaxed at the express request of a woman worker on the basis of the medical certificate stating that neither her health nor that of her child will be endangered.”

    • 4.2 - to amend section 41B of the Act relating to “compulsory disclosure of information by the occupier” to provide for preparation of emergency plan and disaster control measures in consultation with the workers;

      For sub-section (4), the following sub-section shall be substituted, namely:

      • “(4) (a) The occupier of a factory involved in the manufacture, storage or handling such hazardous substances in quantities equal to or more than such quantities as may be prescribed, shall draw up in consultation with workers' representatives an on-site emergency plan and detailed disaster control measures for his factory and submit the same for information of the Chief Inspector and other authorities as may be prescribed.
      • (4) (b) The occupier of the factory shall make known to the workers employed in the factory and to the general public in the vicinity of the factory, the safety measures required to be taken in accordance with the on-site emergency plan and detailed disaster control measures drawn under sub-clause (a) above in the event of an accident taking place:

      Provided that the Central Government or the State Government or the Chief Inspector may, subject to the prior approval of the Central Government or the State Government, by order in writing, require any factory carrying on hazardous process, irrespective of the quantity of hazardous substances in the premises, to draw up an on-site emergency plan and disaster control measures.”;

    • 4.3 - to substitute a new section for existing section 36 of the Act relating to “precautions against dangerous fumes, gases, etc.” to provide adequate facilities to the persons who are liable to enter into confined spaces;

      (1) No person shall be required or allowed to enter any chamber, tank, vat, pit, pipe, flue or other confined space in any factory in which any gas, fume, vapour or dust is likely to be present to such an extent as to involve risk to persons being overcome thereby, unless it is provided with a manhole of adequate size or other effective means of egress or wherein the oxygen content is less than the prescribed content of oxygen.

      The expression “adequate size” has been further defined in this subsection as:

      • Rectangular shape manhole, of not less than 50 cm X 30 cm;
      • Oval shape manhole, of not less than 50 cm Major axis and 30 cm minor axis;
      • Circular shape manhole, of not less than 50 cm diameter

      (2) No person shall be required or allowed to enter in any boiler furnace, boiler flue, chamber, tank, vat, pipe or other confined space in any factory for the purpose of working or making any examination therein until—

      • It has been sufficiently cooled, by ventilation or otherwise, and is safe for persons to enter; and
      • Wherever there is likelihood of deficiency of oxygen,—
        1. a certificate in writing has been given by a competent person, based on test carried out by himself, that the space is not deficient in oxygen so as to be unsafe for persons to enter; or
        2. The worker is wearing suitable breathing apparatus and a safety harness for confined spaces securely attached to a rope is available of which the free end is held by a person standing outside the confined space.

      (3) No person with any disability, or, any pregnant woman, shall be required or allowed to enter in any chamber, tank, vat, pit, pipe, flue or other confined space in any factory as referred to in sub-section (1) and in any boiler, furnace, boiler flue, chamber, tank, vat, pipe or other confined space in any factory as referred to in sub-section (2).

      (4) The suitable breathing apparatus, reviving apparatus and safety harness and ropes, shall be kept for instant use in every factory and in every such confined space as referred to in sub-section (1) or in clause (b) of sub-section (2), which any person may enter, and all such apparatus shall be periodically examined and certified by a competent person to be fit for use; and a sufficient number of persons employed in every factory shall be trained and practiced in the use of all such apparatus and in the method of restoring respiration.

      (5) The State Government may, by order in writing, exempt, subject to such conditions as it may think fit to impose, any factory or class or description of factories from compliance with any of the provisions of this section.'.

    • 4.4 - to amend section 22 of the Act so as to prohibit the pregnant woman or a person with disability to work on or near machinery in motion;
    • 4.5 - to substitute a new section for existing section 27 relating to “prohibition of employment of woman and children near cotton openers” so as to prohibit employment of young persons, pregnant woman and persons with disabilities in any part of a factory for pressing cotton in which a cotton-opener is at work;
    • 4.6 - to substitute a new section 35A relating to “protection of eyes” so as to impose obligation upon the occupier to make a provision of “Personal Protective Equipment” for workers exposed to various hazards;
    • 4.7 - to amend section 37 of the Act relating to “explosive or inflammable dust, gas, etc.”, so as to take practical measures against explosion or inflammable dust, gas, etc.;
    • 4.8 - to amend section 46 of the Act relating to “canteens” to provide canteen facilities in respect of factories employing two hundred or more workers instead of the present stipulation of two hundred and fifty workers;
    • 4.9 - to amend section 47 of the Act relating to “shelters, rest rooms and lunch rooms” so as to provide for shelters or rest rooms and lunch rooms in respect of factories employing seventy-five or more workers instead of present stipulation of one hundred and fifty workers;
    • 4.10 - to amend section 18 of the Act so as to extend the provisions relating to drinking water to all factories irrespective of number of workers;

      Shelters, rest rooms and lunch rooms must be provided in a factory employing 75 or more workers and provision of drinking water must be available to all factories irrespective of number of workers.

    • 4.11 - to insert a new section 112A so as to empower the Central Government to make rules in consultation with the State Governments, with a view to bring uniformity in the areas of occupational safety, health or such other matters as the Central Government may consider necessary; and
    • 4.12 - to insert the Fourth Schedule providing the list of compoundable offences.
  5. The Bill seeks to achieve the above objects.

Our Views :

As is well-known, the subject ‘Factories Act, 1948’ is meant to regulate and consolidate the employment and conditions of service of plant workers and to provide for their safety, health and welfare measures and for other connected matters. The last major amendment took place in 1987 for insertion of ‘hazardous process’ as a fall-out of Bhopal Tragedy; Since then several technological, managerial and environmental developments and changes have taken place that there is an urgent & pressing need to tune it to the present requirements. An attempt has been made by the labour authorities to update it which must be known to EHS people and industrial captains to implement them in right earnest. It’s salient features have been given above.

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