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A Toxics-Free Future

Labour Act-2017 hailed for ensuring workers’ wellbeing

Jan 2, 2018

Kathmandu, Nepal

The recently endorsed Labour Act-2017, which requires employers to ensure a safe working environment for workers’ health and safety, has been applauded by the stakeholders.

The guarantee of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) of workers at workplace in the latest labour legislation is the first ever instance of workers’ health and safety of workers being secured by the country’s law.

“We didn’t have any law to guarantee the safety of workers at workplace so far. This is a milestone for Nepal’s labour rights,” said OSH expert Prof Sunil Kumar Joshi, department head of community medicine at the Kathmandu Medical College. 

Under the Act, employers must be responsible for keeping workers safe from health hazards that might come from the use, storage and operation of any chemical, physical materials and equipment at workplace.

“In cases of factory and industry workers, they are working at adverse condition where they are likely to get exposed to toxic chemicals and other hazards. With the Act, it now becomes imperative that safety and health of such workers has to be ensured by their employers,” said Ram Charitra Sah, executive director of the Centre for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED).

The Act has a special provision on treatment of workers if they suffer from diseases or are maimed due to lax health and safety measures of their workplace. In such case, the concerned employer should bear all treatment expenses. And if the condition is incurable, there is also a provision of compensation.

“After working at thee workplace for a long time, a worker may contract life-threatening diseases or suffer injuries, making them disabled for rest of their life. For such situation, the new law has made arrangements for free treatment and compensation, which is praiseworthy,” said Joshi, suggesting the upcoming regulation should include the list of occupational diseases prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This law comprehensively tries to cover several issues related to workers’ safety from possible workplace accidents and injuries as well as post-accident situations,” added Joshi.  

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)-related deaths accounts for total 2.7 million deaths annually. Also, nearly 317 million workers suffer from work-related injuries every year globally. However, there is no such data on workplace deaths and accident in Nepal.

The Act has a provision that states formation of a safety and health committee within the organisation with 20 or more workers.