In 2014 to 2016, registered Surat textile units clocked 84 fatal accidents in which 114 fatalities and 375 serious injuries to workers were reported (RTI query to Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health, State of Gujarat).
The cause for the deaths included asphyxiation, fall from heights, mechanical injuries, injuries from material handlings and fiber and cotton dust inhalation.
According to the reports of Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the size of India’s textile market in November 2017 was around US$ 150 billion, and is expected to touch US$ 223 billion market by 2021, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 12.2% in 2009-21. The new textile policy aims to achieve US$ 300 billion worth of textile exports by 2024-25 and create an additional 35 million jobs.
Callous attitude in following the safety measures can cause health hazards in the workers
As the textile industry is a labor-oriented industry, unsafe practices can affect the well-being of workers and their families.
Health hazards associated with various units are:
- Production and ginning unit: Physical injuries in fingers, back, and eye, arm/shoulder, leg and head injuries include direct costs (medical compensation) and indirect costs (down time and loss of productivity).
- Yarn manufacturing unit: The manufacturing unit involves machineries having higher rotary and travelling speeds. These speeds can cause noise pollution resulting in headache and dizziness. Also, the workers and supervisors regularly engage themselves in processing and spinning of cotton with these machines. Continuous inhalation of cotton dust result in lung diseases and their symptoms involve tightening of chest, coughing and shortness of breath.
- Synthetic fiber production unit: A large amounts of solvent vapors are released when the filaments arise from the spinnerets by means of spinning. There is a high probability of cancer and heart diseases in such cases which can further result in fatalities.
- Dyeing and printing: Dyeing is a physical affinity between the dye and the fiber of the fabric. Flammable solvents are used in the processes, leading to fire hazards. Workers deal with dangerous levels of chlorine on a daily basis and can cause lung edema. Usage of organic solvents result in dermatitis (skin disease).
Printing results into formation of sludge that can have environmental issues with ground and groundwater contamination.
Each factory should comply with the procedures scrupulously to prevent the potential hazards
Staff members who regularly handle chemicals should have an easy access to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) as they provide information such as physical data (meting or boiling points), toxicity, reactivity, disposable methods, storage conditions, and protective equipment and spill or leak procedures. Along with the training, an availability of MSDS in local language enables the workers to read the contents within without any issues.
The storage area for the dyes and other chemicals should be cool and dry areas. One member in each shift of the staff should be trained in first aid to ensure outreach in case of an emergency.
Other preventions include:
- Regular cleaning of the floors with a Vacuum cleaner to cut down the dust spread.
- Monitoring and repairing dust control equipment and ventilation systems.
- Annual training programs for employees to create health hazard awareness.
- Availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for safe work practices.
- Proper ergonomic infrastructure to avoid musculoskeletal strain.
- Well-maintained machinery to reduce noise pollution.
- Ensure sanitary facilities for the workers to encourage personal hygiene.
There is an increase in the technological advancements in this industry to enhance the range of fabrics and their production. Simultaneously, the progress should be backed by stringent safety policies to promote safety at the workplace.