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ILO Calling for Revisions to Address Physical, Psychological Problems Stemming from Changing Job World

U.N. labor agency says existing methods of protecting workers from accidents and disease are not good enough to deal with new occupational hazards arising from changes in the nature of work

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FILE - A worker programs a tablet to control SAM, a semi-automated mason, as it works on the facade of a school in the south Denver suburb of Englewood, Colorado, Feb. 27, 2018. VOA

The U.N. labor agency says existing methods of protecting workers from accidents and disease are not good enough to deal with new occupational hazards arising from changes in the nature of work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) is calling for revisions to address physical and psychological problems stemming from the changing job world.

In a new report, ILO estimates find 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year. It says more than 374 million people are injured or fall ill every year through work-related accidents. The cost to the world economy from work days lost is nearly four percent of global Gross Domestic Product.

The ILO’s report warns the changes and dangers posed by an increase in technology could result in a worsening of that situation. It says new measures must be implemented to deal with the psycho-social risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases resulting from new forms of work.

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FILE – Technicians make final inspections to vehicles on an assembly line at the Nissan Canton Assembly Plant, in Canton, Mississippi, March 19, 2018. VOA

It says digitization, artificial intelligence, robotics and automatization require new monitoring methods to protect workers.

Manal Azzi, an ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health, says that on the one hand, new technology is freeing workers from many dirty, dangerous jobs. On the other, she says, the jobs can raise ethical concerns.

She told VOA surveillance of workers has become more intrusive, leading them to work longer hours, a situation that may not be ethical.

“Also, different monitoring systems that workers wear. Before, you would punch in, punch out. Now, you could wear bands on your wrist that show how many hours you are actually working in a production line. And, there is even discussion of introducing implants, where workers can be continuously surveyed on their production processes,” she said.

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ILO estimates find 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases each year. Wikimedia

Azzi said a host of mental problems could be introduced by new work environments. The report also focuses on changes in demographics. It says employers have to adapt to the physical needs of older workers, who may need training to safely operate equipment.

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Another area of concern is climate change. The ILO is positive about the green jobs being introduced. But it says care must be taken to protect people from warmer temperatures that increase risks, including air pollution, heat stress, and newly emerging diseases.

In the past, creating a safer working environment focused on the prevention of risks. Authors of the report say the ILO today needs to anticipate the risks. They say new skills and information about safety and health in the workplace have to be learned at an earlier age. Before young people apply for a job, they say, they should know their rights. The power of knowledge, they say, will help protect employees in the workplace. (VOA)

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Supreme Court Expresses Concern For Not Providing Protective Gear To Workers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over existence of untouchability and caste discrimination despite 70 years of Independence

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Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that caste discrimination, unfortunately, continues to prevail in society. Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over existence of untouchability and caste discrimination despite 70 years of Independence and pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers.

“Untouchability was abolished, but this is a question before everyone: do you even shake hands with manual scavengers,” the court asked, pointing out that untouchability is still being practised.

The court’s remarks came while hearing the Centre’s plea seeking the recall of a 2018 judgement which virtually diluted the stringent provisions of immediate arrest and denial of anticipatory bail to the accused on a complaint filed under the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that caste discrimination, unfortunately, continues to prevail in society even after 70 years of Independence.

Observing that caste discrimination continues to exist in society and criticising the deaths of people while involved in cleaning places like manholes and drains, the Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers.

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Despite 70 years of Independence and pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers. Wikimedia Commons

Expressing concern on the issue, the apex court said that nowhere else in the world are people sent to die into gas chambers, referring to the recent deaths in different municipalities of cleaners who had descended for cleaning blocked sewer drains.

The bench also said that it is the “most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying every day and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities.”

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said that no law of tort, which deals with civil wrong and its liabilities thereof, has been developed in the country.The court also noted that there is no law of tort being practiced in India.

“What have you done for manual scavenging? In no other country, people enter manholes without protective gears. What have you done about it?,” the bench asked. “All humans are equal, and when they are equal, you should provide them equal opportunities,” the court said, adding the governments are not even providing such workers an equal chance and basic facilities to clean themselves.

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Most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying every day and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities. Wikimedia Commons

The bench, meanwhile, reserved order on the Centre’s plea seeking recall of its 2018 judgment, the case it was hearing originally. The apex court also asked the parties to submit their written submissions and said that the batch of petitions challenging the Amendment to the Act will be heard separately, next week. The Supreme Court on Friday had referred the Centre’s plea on the 2018 judgment to a larger bench.

The Centre had stated that the judgment diluting the stringent provision of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had “seriously affected the morale of these communities and the confidence in the ability of the state to protect them”.

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The apex court in its March 20 judgement had said: “…in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected without the permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of Senior Superintendent of Police in case of general public”.

The court had said it was providing the safeguard “in view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest” under the Act. “It’s necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism, which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values,” it said. (IANS)