The word ‘labor welfare’ applies to the facilities given to laborers in and outside the factory premises such as canteens, resting and leisure facilities, accommodation, and all other amenities that contribute to the well-being of employees. Welfare programs include general well-being and worker productivity. Welfare activities for factory workers were not receiving adequate attention in the early stages of industrialization. Employers were not inclined to accept the financial burden associated with welfare. Wherever employers paid for these services, it was more through a paternalistic approach to labor than in consideration of the needs of the workers. Therefore the state had to interfere, discharging its welfare responsibilities, using its persuasive powers and/or enforcing legislation where persuasion failed.
Accordingly, mandatory regulations for the hygiene, safety, and welfare of workers engaged in the manufacturing process are included in the Factories Act, 1948. Working conditions were historically very pathetic for factory workers in India. Workers had practically no option because of the poverty and exploitation by factory owners. Thanks to a rise in industrial production in the second half of the 19th century, attempts were made by Royal Commission reports and various actions to improve the welfare of the workforce several times. The 1948 act builds on the 1934 act, after recognizing the earlier act’s flaws and limitations. A significant change was observed in the expansion of the concept of a ‘Factory’ to include any industrial establishment employing 10 or more people who use power, or any industrial establishment employing more than 20 people who use no power. Other changes which were inculcated in the act were-
- The elimination of the distinction between seasonal and non-seasonal factories.
- The minimum age of eligible working children was raised from 12 to 14, children’s working hours were reduced from 5 to 4 1⁄2 and they were banned from work after 7 PM and before 6 AM.
- Specific and special attention was concentrated on the fitness, protection, and wellbeing of all kinds of workers
- Quality of work life means the degree to which work organization members can meet important personal needs through their organization experience. This applies to equal remuneration, safe and healthy climate, development opportunities, and the like. Better work-life quality leads to motivation and contentment. The health dimension of work-life efficiency plays a very significant role in raising the organization’s manpower productivity.
In general terms, ‘welfare’ is nothing more than an individual or group’s health, happiness, and fortunes. Some people see it as a legislative process or social initiative aimed at ensuring the basic physical and material well-being of the poor. People who work in various fields and at different levels have specific health criteria. The workers who work in the factories do have other requirements for healthcare. The 1948 Factories Act defines certain provisions concerning this concept.
Section 42: Washing facilities
This section notes that every factory has to:
- First, provide and maintain adequate and sufficient washing facilities for all the factory workers.
- Second, separate and properly screened facilities for men and women shall be provided separately.
- Thirdly, make all the services open to all workers
Section 43: Facilities for storing and drying clothes
This section challenges the State Government to certain powers. It notes that the government of the state has the power to direct the factories about the position where the workers’ clothes are kept. They can also guide them with the way workers’ clothes are dried. It refers to the case where workers don’t wear work clothes.
Section 44: Facilities for sitting
There are different types of workers inside a factory. Some of them require that the workers stand for a longer period. There is no question that there are limits to the human capacity to stand on. The following section states:
- First, the factory will have suitable seating arrangements for the staff. It is significant, as he/she can be able to relax by sitting if the worker gets some free time. That will also improve their efficiency.
- Secondly, if the Chief Inspector feels that any worker can do his job more efficiently while sitting, then he can order the officers of the factory to arrange for him to sit.
Section 45: First-aid-appliance
Injuries are, for the workers particularly employed in the factories, somehow an inevitable part of life. Considering the workers’ health and wellbeing this section specifies that:
- The factory should supply and maintain appropriate first aid boxes in each workroom. Under this Act, the number of boxes for every 100 or 50 employees should be no less than one. Also, according to the Act, first aid boxes will have all the necessary contents.
- There should be none in the First Aid box but the prescribed contents.
- Each box should be controlled by an in-charge First Aid person who will handle all its requirements and use. A First Aid specialist should be the in-charge.
- In case the number of workers exceeds 500, then the factory should arrange an ‘Ambulance Room’ with the availability of all necessary equipment.
Section 46: Canteens
This section reads:
- Any factory in which the number of employees exceeds 250 will then be required by the State Government to provide and maintain a canteen for the employees.
- However, in the construction of a canteen, the Government could lay down certain conditions such as:
- The norm regarding the canteen’s building, accommodation, furniture, and other equipment
- The food to be eaten therein
- The day the canteen is to be opened
- The setting up of a canteen management committee
- Delegation to the Chief Inspector according to the criteria that may be laid down
Section 47: Shelters, rest-rooms, and lunch-rooms
This segment contains the following:
- If the number of employees in a factory reaches 150, the factory owners will build and maintain tents, restrooms, and lunchrooms for the employees. This helps the workers to consume the food they bring along.
- Proper ventilation and lighting of tents, rest-rooms, and lunch-rooms.
- Regarding construction accommodation, furniture, and other equipment, the State Government may prescribe standards.
Section 48: Crèches
Due to the diversity of the workforce nowadays, the participation of women is growing in all sectors, especially the industrial sector. One of the reasons preventing women from working in factories or any other field is a lack of care during their working hours for their children. Section 48 states: To address this problem and improve women’s participation in factories:
- If the number of female employees reaches 30 the factory will provide a separate room for the children of the worker who are under 6 years of age.
- The room should be well lit and ventilated.
There is a close relationship between safety measures and workers ‘efficiency i.e. if the appropriate welfare measures are taken then the employees’ productivity will increase and ultimately the organization’s profit will increase. Efficiency results in an improvement in the average per worker efficiency. Improved efficiency reflects this. The welfare initiatives increase the organization’s productivity as well as enhance the employees’ morale and motivation which positively impacts the organization’s performance level. These interventions include not just the worker’s physical performance and health but also his general well-being. They bring about an improvement in the conditions under which workers are employed and work. This preserves their lives and their bodies. Inadequate provision of safety measures at factories will lead to an increase in accident numbers. Human errors due to carelessness, negligence, poor ability, and insufficient supervision have led to accidents and the consequent need for these interventions.
This Article is Authored by Nehal Misra, 3rd Year B.Com LLB (Hons) Student at Institute of Law, Nirma University.
Also Read – Factories Act 1948 – Is There A Need For Reform