Following a first of its kind directive by the Bombay High Court, college students will soon visit thermal power plants in the state to interview workers there in order to gain first-hand information about occupational hazards that workers face. The HC ordered the the District Legal Services Committees of Maharashtra to enroll students from law and other colleges for the initiative.
The students have been asked to find out what occupational health hazards employees working in various coal- fired thermal power stations (CFTPP) are subjected to and the steps — preventive, curative as well as remedial — being taken by the CFTPPs for protection of the health and welfare of the workers.
In addition, the HC has also directed the state government to detail, by December 8, what measures it proposes to take for the “effective implementation” of the labour laws.
Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice B P Colabawalla have also asked 35 thermal power plants in the state to file their compliance reports to the state government and specifically to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.
The Bombay High Court’s decision comes in the backdrop of rulings by the Supreme Court. The SC, while hearing a PIL filed over the occupational hazards of employees working in various thermal power stations in the country, had considered various recommendation to ensure the safety of workers.
The central government had then told the Supreme Court that the suggestions were broadly covered by several existing enactments and consequential pro-occupational action would be taken for effective implementation of the relevant laws.
The SC, thereafter, directed the Ministry of Labour to take steps to see that above referred suggestions and relevant provisions of various Labour Acts are properly implemented to protect the welfare of the employees.
Pursuant to the directions of Supreme Court, the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) submitted report for the year 2011 making various recommendations.
The report pointed out that occupational exposure to high heat in different thermal power plants may cause heat related disorders, like heat exhaustion. Noise and vibration exposures in higher doses than the permissible limits may result in noise induced hearing loss, raised blood pressure, regional vascular disorders, muscular-skeletal disorders, human error, productivity loss, accidents and injuries. Radiation hazards particularly from the generated fly ash and its used products have also been indicated of possible health risks.
The SC, therefore, pointed out it was necessary to make detail examination of the steps taken by CFTPPs and the Central Government and the statutory authorities to protect the worker. Since the CFTPPs are spread over various states, the SC felt that it would not be practical for it to examine whether CFTPPs and transferred the monitoring to the respective High Courts in August this year.
The Bombay HC has also directed all power station to submit their periodical reports to the district legal services committee in the respective districts in which the power plants are situated.