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Worker safety of no value

The "low cost of human life" often compromises the safety of the workforce in India, a speaker said at a conference on industrial safety in the city on Wednesday.

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
  • Published 9.08.18
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Ian Thorpe at the event on Wednesday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Calcutta: The "low cost of human life" often compromises the safety of the workforce in India, a speaker said at a conference on industrial safety in the city on Wednesday.

"The compensation paid to the family of a worker who dies in an industrial accident varies between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh in India. In the UK, the amount is between £1 and 2 million (Rs 8.84 crore and Rs 17.68 crore) and in the US, between $5 and 10 million (Rs 34.34 crore and Rs 68.68 crore)," said Ian Thorpe, vice-president, health and safety, HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited.

He was speaking at the Safety Symposium and Exposition 2018, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

"In a project worth thousands of crores, a few lakhs hardly matter," he said.

The inherent hierarchy in many Indian companies meant that unless the top management was serious about safety, things on the ground would not change, said Thorpe.

According to him, there were problems in each level of the hierarchy. The management says the right things to the clients but delivers the minimum they can get away with.

In infrastructure projects, the engineers focus on completing the job and leave safety to the safety team. The supervisor and workers often come via petty contractors and have low skills, he said. The safety team, without proper support from the top, is low on effectiveness.

Sanjiv Paul, vice-president, safety, health and sustainability, Tata Steel, who gave a special address in the inaugural session, also highlighted the need for accountability of the top leadership.

"Every accident is preventable and the onus is on the top leadership of an organisation to see accidents do not occur at all," said Paul.