According to International Labor Organization (ILO) around two million people die from work-related accidents and diseases annually. An estimated 160 million people suffer from work-related diseases. There are an estimated 270 million fatal and non-fatal work-related accidents per year.

The joint committee of ILO and World Health Organization (WHO) first defined occupational health at its first session in 1950 and revised at its twelfth session in 1995.  “Occupational health should aim at:

  • the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations;
  • the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions;
  • the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health;
  • the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and,
  • to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job.”

The workforce in Nepal is mostly engaged in informal sectors, like agriculture and industries. Due to very few large-scale industries operation in Nepal, most of the workers are working in medium-sized and household-level industries. Construction industry work is another common workplace including construction of building, road, bridges, power house, irrigation system, and sewage). In building construction itself, workers involve in different works like, mason, carpenter, labour, scaffolding, rod binder, electrician, plaster, plumber, laying chips, marble and tiles, brick making, stone quarrying, etc.

The work environment (light, temperature, ventilation, sound, etc.) differs as of the nature of work. The work environment does not meet even the basic necessary standard at the work place though some of the management claimed their work place does meet the international standard. In Nepal, it is estimated that approximately 20,000 workers suffers from accidents at workplace affecting about 200 lives lost each year.

Occupational Health Rules, Regulation and Policies

Back in 1919, ILO has maintained and developed a system of international labor standards which aimed at promoting opportunities for decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity.

The ILO Constitution sets forth the principle that workers should be protected from sickness, disease and injury arising from their employment. The ILO has adopted more than 40 standards specifically dealing with occupational safety and health, as well as over 40 Codes of Practice. Nearly half of ILO instruments deal directly or indirectly with occupational safety and health issues.




Most industrialized countries have developed an occupational health policy that protects the safety of their employees. The European Union Occupational Safety and Health Administration (EU-OSHA) formed in 1996 out of Bilbao, Spain. The Korean safety organization, known as KOSHA, went into effect in 1986.

But in case of Nepal, the concept of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is in its initial stage. After the restoration of a multi-party system in Nepal, Government of Nepal has begun to pay more attention to industrial working conditions and environment by enacting and enforcing the new Labor Act 2048 (1992). It has highlighted few issues and provisions on working hours, physical infrastructural setup, yearly medical examination and provisions of safety measures in work etc.

The OSH sector in Nepal has three major identified sectors:

  • government,
  • the industries/ employers and
  • the work force/labor unions.

Till this time, the Labour Act 2048 (1992) and Labour Rules, 2050 (1993) are the main labour laws in Nepal that covers working conditions, safety

There were some studies conducted in Nepal to study different aspects of occupational safety and health and various working conditions. However the concept of working conditions, occupational safety and health of the workers is quite a new concept for many.

The Labour Act encompasses the provisions of standards of working conditions, workmen’s compensation, leave and holidays, safety and health, minimum wage fixation and settlement of labour disputes. The Labor Act and its subsidiary rules, Bonus Act and rules, are the main labor laws in the country, which cover working conditions, welfare of workers, safety and health, and industrial disputes.

Enactment of Labour Act 1992 and its regulation (1993) is only the legal document that covers safety and health provisions of workers in industrial sector.

Chapter V, section 27-36 of the Labour Act 1992 explains the health and safety of workers in the establishment. The Act has prescribed arrangements for garbage management, provision of modern toilets, supply of adequate safe drinking water, provision of appropriate volume of ventilation, condition of light, temperature and sound, protection from dust, smoke, fumes and other impurities, avoidance of overcrowding in any room of the establishment and provision of extinguishing fire.

The Act also includes the provision of medical check-up for the workers at least once a year in the establishment which are hazard prone. It ensures the provision of first aid in industrial enterprises with more than 50 employees, and an academically trained medical assistant in the case of industrial enterprises with more than 400 workers. If an industrial enterprise has more than 1,000 employees, there should be a medical doctor and a medical assistant.

It also suggests a number of preventive measures such as – protection of eyes, protection against chemical hazards and fire, guarding against dangerous machinery, prohibition on lifting heavy load and safety measures for pressure plants. The Act further mentions provision for compulsory notice of any kind of accident or disease to the concerned labour office.

Section 5 of Chapter II of the Labor Act restricts to employ to work any minor or a woman unless otherwise prescribed during the hours between 6.00 pm and 6.00 am. It limits the working hours for adults to no more than eight hours a day or forty-eight hours a week. It provides for a weekly holiday with pay and compulsory intervals of rest. It also provides overtime payment and restricts to allow workers for overtime for more than four hours a day but not exceeding twenty hours a week.

The Three Year Interim Plan (2007/08-2009/10)

The Interim Three Year Plan has set some strategic programs and visions to make workplace safe, healthy and productive by promoting and developing occupational safety and health as an integral part of all the industrial enterprises and workplace. Government of Nepal has endorsed Occupational Safety and Health Project and allocated annual budget for it. The project sets following programs to be implemented as the integral part of the project.

  • Training program on OSH for social partners.
  • Capacity enhancement
  • Training program for officers affiliated with OSH.
  • Orientation program for employers.
  • Awareness enhancement programs on industrial accidents.
  • Awareness program on HIV/AIDS and STDs at workplaces.
  • Labour education programs and
  • Factory inspection, monitoring and evaluation strengthening programmes.

 

The Three Year Plan (2010/11-2012/13)

This Approach Paper 2010 has set an objective to create healthy, safe and decent working environment through development of cordial labour relations. This can be achieved through the revision of the existing labour laws and developing scientific labour inspection system and model labour offices.

To promote the occupational safety and health at workplaces by enhancing the improvement of working conditions Government of Nepal established the Occupational Safety and Health Project under the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management in 1995 with the prime objective of creating awareness of occupational safety and health among industrial employers, employees and the concerned officials of the government and thereby improving the conditions of work.

However the weak regulatory systems in poor countries like Nepal has resulted in the hazardous working environments leading to the higher risk of poor working conditions followed by high incidence of occupational diseases and accidents of the workers. OSH in Nepal is in its early stage and it seems a challenge to meet the international level standard and constantly monitor and regulate working environment.

 

More links

Labour Act