Health and Safety in the Workplace

The beginning of the industrial revolution marked a significant turning point in the development of health standards in the workplace. Health at the workplace, also known as occupational health, aims to improve the working environment while promoting employee well-being and a healthy lifestyle. Effective health and safety performance guarantees an accident-free work environment. This branch of healthcare is concerned with the overall physical, psychological, and social health of workers in all professions.

The continuous and unwavering effort of various legislative authorities as well as NGOs have significantly improved occupational health and safety (OH&S) awareness in India. The importance of achieving high OH&S performance has started to be recognized by organizations in the same way as other important areas of their business activities.

The Emergence of Occupational Health

Occupational health emerged during the industrial revolution in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The industrial revolution brought about several health issues, such as long working hours, the use of hazardous chemicals, and exposure to harmful gasses, all of which had a negative impact on the working class's physical, social, and psychological health. Although the industrial revolution increased GDP in many countries, the health of industrial workers was largely ignored.

Following World War I, there was a need to address occupational health issues. As a result, the International Labour Organization was formed in 1919, and the World Health Organization was established in 1948.

Occupational health is defined by the ILO and the World Trade Organization as "the promotion and maintenance of the highest level of physical, mental, and social well-being of workers in all occupations through the prevention of health deviations, risk control, and adaptation of work to people and people to their jobs."

Objectives of the Occupational Health at Workplace

Objectives for occupational health as agreed upon by all parties are as follows −

  • Improvement of national and international workplace safety and health policies.

  • The adoption of fundamental occupational health and safety standards and the introduction of regulations to guarantee the minimum requirements for health protection.

  • Expanding access to occupational health services and creating a workforce dedicated to worker health.

  • Promoting and maintaining the highest level of workers' social, mental, and physical well-being among all occupations.

  • Establishment of support services for occupational health and effective operation of dispute forums

Constitutional provisions relating to health and safety in the workplace

According to the Indian Constitution, labor is a concurrent list subject that is subject to legislative authority from both the state and central governments. The Directive Principles of State Policy are the governing principles that are outlined in Part IV of the constitution, from Articles 36 to 51. The state, in accordance with Articles 39, 42, and 43A, shall direct its policy to ensure that the necessary precautions are being taken to ensure that the tender age of children and workers' health are not harmed and that citizens do not engage in activities that are inappropriate for their ages, to provide fair and humane working conditions and maternity leave, and to ensure workers' participation in management, respectively.

Legislative framework relating to health and safety in the workplace

It includes −

The Factories Act, 1948

It governs various aspects of the working conditions of factory workers, such as welfare, safety, and other factors. It is enforced by state governments through factory inspectors. The Directorate General Factory Advice Service & Labor Institutes (DGFASLI) coordinates matters pertaining to the welfare, health, and safety of factory workers with the assistance of the State Governments.

Mines Act, 1952

It includes provisions for measures relating to the welfare, health, and safety of mine workers of coal, metals, and oil. The Act also outlined the responsibilities of the owner (defined as the proprietor, lessee, or agent) for managing the health and safety of mine workers as well as the operation of mines. Further, it specifies the minimum wage rates, the number of working hours in mines, and other related matters.

Dock Workers (Safety, Health & Welfare) Act, 1986

It also includes provisions for the welfare, health, and safety of dock and port workers.

In addition, the Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2020, which replaced 13 existing labor laws, aims to improve worker safety and welfare in India.

Shortcomings in the present legislative framework relating to health and safety in the workplace

Currently, India has a comprehensive set of workplace health and safety laws that primarily apply to the manufacturing, mining, port, and construction industries. However, laws do not apply to other important sectors of the Indian economy, such as agriculture, transportation, and services.

According to the 2011 Census, there are approximately 106,775,330 people employed in the agricultural sector alone, indicating a significant gap in the protection of all workers' health and safety across the country. Although India has numerous laws protecting workers, the number of accidents is still very high because the majority of labor unions are not aware of the implications of these provisions and are therefore unable to fully benefit from the laws.


In India, worker safety is a major concern, and the government has been working to improve workplace health and safety standards. Employers can boost employee morale and increase profitability by prioritizing workplace health and safety. This will make the workplace safer and more productive for everyone involved. By placing a high priority on health and safety, employers can create a work environment that is safer and more productive for their employees, which will increase productivity and profitability.


Q1. What does health and safety in the workplace mean?

Ans. Health and safety at work refer to the practices, procedures, and policies used to ensure employee well-being and avoid workplace accidents, illnesses, and injuries.

Q2. What are the laws in India that govern workplace health and safety?

Ans. The primary laws governing workplace health and safety in India are the Factories Act of 1948, the Mines Act of 1952, the Dock Workers (Safety, Health, and Welfare) Act of 1986, and the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1996.

Q3. How does the employer ensure health and safety in the workplace in India?

Ans. Employers have a responsibility to give their workers a safe and healthy workplace. Personal protective equipment must be provided, safe work practices must be followed, and policies and procedures must be implemented to prevent accidents and injuries.

Q4. What are some of the most common workplace hazards in India?

Ans. Electrical hazards, fires and explosions, chemical exposures, and ergonomic risks are all common workplace hazards in India.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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