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Experts seek safety‚ health policy for workers



KATHMANDU: Experts dealing with safety and health issue of industrial sector sought a comprehensive policy to address growing industrial accidents and chemical hazards.

Government must bring a policy on occupational safety and health, they said at an event organised to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work here today.

The country do not have a law to deal with accidents at work places and chemical hazards, said country representative at International Commission on Occupational Health Dr Sunil Kumar Joshi. “Ministry of Labour and Employment must formulate the law at the earliest,” he said, adding that hundreds of workers are not getting compensation due to the lack of law.

Nepal has the highest rate of work place accidents and health hazards but very little efforts have been taken in the issue. The ministry has been running a project — Occupational Safety and Health Project — but has not been able to reach to the grass-root level since its inception in 1995.

Decade long armed conflict from 1996 to 2006 and political transition have affected the progress, head of Occupational Safety and Health Project Varun Kumar Jha, said, adding they could not have access to industries spread across the country.

About six to seven per cent people working in formal sector have been suffering from work related hazards like disease and accidents. Around three per cent is fatal. However, there is no legal remedy in the labour or industrial laws.

The government must enforce law or policy to address the problem, Joshi said, adding that without the occupational health and safety policy the country could not leap forward to industrialisation. “It is believed that about 10,000 Nepalis are affected every year in the formal sector that employs around 300,000 people.”

Nepal needs not only to formulate occupational health and safety policy but also strong mechanism to enforce it, said expert from Odense University, Denmark Erik Jors. As Nepal has been revising labour laws, it is the best time to adopt safety and health measures, he said, adding workers with better health are must for industrialisation and prosperity.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) has included occupational health safety issue in its convention 155, 161 and 187. However, the government has not ratified the conventions yet.

According to World Health Organisation, about 2.34 million people die each year from work-related accidents and diseases. Around four per cent of GDP is lost as a result of occupational accidents globally in a year. Occupation diseases are fourth largest death cause globally after diarrhea, respiratory diseases and malaria.

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