On November 19, 2020, the Central Government notified the draft Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (Central) Rules, 2020 ("OSH Rules") under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 ("OSH Code") for seeking public comment. When enforced, the OSH Rules will apply to establishments for which the "appropriate Government" is the Central Government. The State Governments, which are the 'appropriate Government' for, amongst others, private establishments, may draft their State-specific rules or adopt the OSH Rules with appropriate modifications.

The OSH Code, read along with the OSH Rules, deals with matters relating to health, occupational safety, welfare and working conditions of employees and workers. It applies to all establishments, factories, motor transport undertakings, newspaper establishments, audio-visual production, building and construction work ("BOCW") or plantation employing 10 or more workers, except in the case of mines, ports, docks, and establishments engaged in hazardous or life-threatening activity where the threshold of workers is not relevant. That said, establishments covered under the OSH Code will need to assess the specific statutory requirements applicable to their business and workforce.

The OSH Rules will replace the Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Rules, 1990, the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Services) Rules, 1998, the Model Factories Rules, the Mines Rules, 1955, the Mines Rescue Rules, 1985, the Mines Vocational Training Rules, 1966, the Pithead Bath Rules, 1959, the Mines Crèche Rules,1966, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Central Rules, 1971, the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Central Rules, 1979, the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Rules, 1957, the Cine-Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Rules, 1984, and the Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1976. 

Some key changes introduced by the OSH Rules are as follows:

  • Online process for the registration of establishments on the Shram Suvidha Portal of the Ministry of Labour and Employment ("SS Portal").
  • Deemed registration of establishments with auto generation of their registration certificates on failure of the Registering Officer to issue the same within 7 days from the date of receipt of their completed application.
  • Relaxation to certain establishments from obtaining electronic registration for a specific period in exceptional circumstances and permitting them to submit registration application in physical form.
  • Employers of establishments that are already registered under any other central labour law need to update particulars of their establishments on the SS Portal within 6 months from the date of commencement of the OSH Code.
  • Factories, mines and establishments hiring contract labour or building or other construction workers being required to electronically intimate commencement and/or cessation of operations to the concerned Registering Officer within 30 days of commencement/ cessation, and certify payment of dues to workers employed and the premises being free of hazardous chemicals and substances.
  • Employers need to electronically intimate the commencement and completion of any work in their establishments to the concerned Inspector-cum-Facilitator within 30 days of such commencement/ completion, which would be auto-shared with the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation and Employees' State Insurance Corporation.
  • Employers of establishments such as factories, docks, mines and those undertaking BOCW to conduct, free of cost, an annual medical examination by a qualified medical practitioner within 120 days from the commencement of each calendar year for every worker/employee who has completed 45 years of age.
  • Mandatory issuance of appointment letters in the prescribed format to new joinees and employees whose appointment letters did not contain the prescribed particulars.
  • Employers need to take immediate remedial action on receipt of information from employees about any imminent danger to their safety and health and to send a report of action taken to the Inspector-cum-Facilitator electronically or by registered post or speed post.
  • Mandatory requirement for certain establishments to constitute Safety Committee consisting of representatives of employers and workers and appoint Safety Officers.
  • Provision for payment of overtime wages in respect of work undertaken by workers in excess of the prescribed working hours with a 125 hours ceiling on total overtime hours per quarter.
  • Employers to display notices with prescribed particulars at a conspicuous place in their establishments in English, Hindi and the local language understood by a majority of their workers.
  • Employers are permitted to employ women before 6.00 a.m. and beyond 7.00 p.m. on any day subject to fulfillment of certain conditions such as employee consent, provision of adequate transport facilities and, compliance with maternity benefit requirements and provisions of Sexual Harassment of Women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. 
  • The qualification and criteria prescribed for grant of contractor licence requires an applicant to not be an undischarged insolvent or convicted in the last 2 years for a criminal offence liable for punishment with imprisonment for more than 3 months.
  • Contractors need to apply for a contractor licence on the SS Portal and comply with conditions of such license including adherence to hours of work as prescribed under the OSH Code, payment of wages as per the Code on Wages, 2019 and provision of prescribed facilities and amenities to the contract workers.
  • If the Labour Commissioner (Central)/ his representative orders payment of pending wages due to contract labour from the security deposit furnished by the contractor then the contractor needs to re-furnish the security deposit within 15 days of such payment failing which his contractor licence may be suspended.
  • Contractors need to intimate the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) /his representative through the SS Portal or via email about any contract work order received by them within 15 days from receipt of such order.
  • Experience certificate issued by contractors to contract workers needs to specify their period of work, details of work performed, and experience gained by them in various fields. 

The OSH Rules in its current form is a little ambiguous and needs further fine-tuning to ensure effective compliance by employers. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.