Poor safety mechanism, work pressure maims thousands in auto sector: Report
Inadequate safety mechanisms and production pressure from supervisors are the leading causes of accidents in the automotive sector, found a new report that recorded 1,369 accident cases leading to loss of limbs over three years.
In more than 6 in 10 cases, the injuries resulted in permanent incapacity, rendering workers incapable of equivalent employment and future growth and pushing their families into poverty, said a report by Safe In India Foundation that highlight the poor safety record of the automotive industry’s supply chain in India.
These injuries would be preventable if companies install safety mechanisms in their machines, train workers to operate dangerous machines, provide safety gear, and stop long shifts, said the report, which suggests practical and achievable solutions as a roadmap for the way forward.
The Foundation, which was started by three alumni of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, analysed data for 1,369 accident victims helped by the foundation between May 2016 and June 2019.
The automotive sector contributes to 4% of the GDP and employs at least 13 million people, which makes it imperative to provide safety standards for the industry.
“Around 93% of injured workers were making components for three major companies in Gurgaon, we approached them. We believe that it’s a national issue and all other auto-sector hubs, such as in Pune and Chennai, will have a similar supply chain and the high use of power press and moulding machines will lead to similar issues. They can benefit from our Gurgaon learnings and recommendations,” says Sandeep Sachdeva, co-founder, CEO, Safe in India Foundation.
Factory accidents are common, say doctors in trauma care. “Machine-cut and crush injuries to limbs are quite common in factory workers. We do get such cases and many require surgery to repair the damage,” said Dr Biplab Mishra, professor of surgery, AIIMS Trauma Centre.
The report provides faces to the accidents. There’s Manmohan Bajpai, who lost his hand in a Manesar factory, and Sameer, who lost three fingers of his right hand when the machine came crashing down on him. Most of the victims are young migrants working on contracts.
“Creating awareness among all stakeholders (auto-industry, government, buyers of cars and two-wheelers, manufacturers and users of power presses, investors, etc)... at a very high level, improve safety culture in all industry. If auto-brands share our findings with their supply chain and push them to take ownership, there will be an immediate change in behaviour in 20-30% of suppliers within six-12 months,” says Sachdeva.
Company Spokesperson for Maruti Suzuki India Limited, which according to the report has been the most proactive in starting to take action, said, “The company’s vision on Safety is ‘Zero Incident – Zero Human Injury and Zero Fire’... With every near-miss or incident occurrence, root-cause analysis is carried out and accordingly theme-based safety improvements are suggested.”
The government can turn proactive to ensure safety by using Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) accident data to inspect high-offending factories, but this may reduce ESIC coverage to workers by high-offending factories, warns the report.
The laws and guidelines exist under Factory Law and National Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct. “If the auto-Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and the government implements large commercial costs for poor factories, things will improve much faster in many more factories. I would say that 50-70% of accidents will reduce. The last 10-30% would be tough and there will always be some accidents but by then we would have saved many be lacs of workers from such injuries across the country,” says Sachdeva.
“This is a subject where technical solutions can be implemented, say over one to two years. Cultural change will take much longer. We believe that this is a long term game and we will have to stay focussed on it for the next 5-10 years until system changes for the better and changes sustainably,” he adds.