India needs more occupational safety tech

India is in dire need of better occupational safety technologies, as dangerous working conditions are a leading cause of preventable, unnecessary death and disability among India’s working class. Every quarter, the nation’s growth rates are the center of attention, but the numbers of injured and dying workers who facilitate this growth are conveniently ignored. One way to understand the gravity of the situation is by examining the June 2008 report, Beyond deaths and injuries: The ILO’s role in promoting safe and healthy jobs, by the International Labour Organisation, an international UN agency consisting of representation from workers, employers and governments of its member states. According to the report, the ILO has estimated that approximately 403,000 Indians die every year due to work induced illness or injury. It’s possible that the number of casualties could be underestimated, since the ILO doesn’t receive reliable or sufficient data from India. In 2003, India reported 179 fatal accidents, but the ILO estimated the number to be around 47,000. Information regarding occupational disease is unreliable as well since ILO gets these numbers by infering them from developed countries that actively report job related accidents and illnesses.

The proper utilization of new technologies could turn things around for Indian workers. Aside from state of the art safety equipment, warning systems and automation, mobile app technology can also contribute to a safer work environment. Take the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for example. The OSHA created an app, for Android and iPhone, to help workers prevent heat induced illness. The app syncs the user’s location with the National Weather Service’s heat index data. According to the associated risk level, the app generates precautionary information for the user. The app also includes information regaring heat stroke and related illnesses. Surely, since the technology is available, similar organizations in India could roll out safety apps for India’s workforce, if so inclined.

There are many other occupational safety apps available now for Android, Blackberry and iPhone, such as Office Ergonomics, LiftRight and iAuditor. Office Ergonomics, made by EWI Works International and developed with certified ergonomists, helps office workers to set up their workstations in such a way as to minimize chance of injury. LiftRight, from EMC Insurance Companies, allows one to use the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Lifting Equation on their iPhone to determine if items are too heavy to lift. iAuditor, from SafetyCulture, is an inspection checklist app that contains thousands of inspection forms, and can benefit fire departments, airlines, government agencies or anyone else wanting to conduct a safety audit.

While a Bing search didn’t bear many useful results when “occupational safety apps India” was used in the search parameters, hopefully the trend will catch on in India, as did the notion of safety apps for women, especially since so many Indian workers suffer or die needlessly due to absence or non-enforcement of safety protocols. However, employers can still make use of this technology, since smart gadgets are ubiquitous and some of the safety apps, such as Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) and Monarch Construction Safety and are free to download and use. OH&S is made by Smart Media Innovations, and claims to, “…Keep you at the forefront of OHS and Workplace Safety training, best practices, and information on key topics from our featured experts and publishers.” The Monarch Construction Safety app is from Monarch Safety Apps and is meant for general contractors and carpenters.  The company claims, “The Monarch Safety App is the easiest way to record hazard assessment, site inspections, vehicle inspections and the corrective actions to each while on site.”

Since the availability of lower cost Android devices is increasing, and some safety apps can be accessed for free, perhaps the convenience of a mobile device could serve as an incentive for more employers to be mindful of safety procedures.  More importantly, it could be an incentive for Indian app developers to create more free and/or affordable occupational safety apps, preferably customized for India’s unique and diverse working environments. For that matter, Indian app developers could go a step further and make such apps available in regional languages as well as Hindi and English, as this would entice more people to actually use the apps while making the technology accessible to those who aren’t well versed in Hindi and English.

Unfortunately, there still remains the issue of some employers, bureaucrats and politicians simply choosing to wallow in apathy with regards to the health and safety of India’s workers, and especially those earning the lowest wages for some of the most dangerous and demeaning work…  Is there an app for that?




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Tracy Venkatesh

Tracy Venkatesh

Tracy Venkatesh has spent twenty years working and interacting with a socioeconomically diverse population in both the private and public sectors, and has held positions in multiple verticals including content development, healthcare, customer relations management, defense and law enforcement.

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