Travel Safety in Manufacturing is A Duty of Care That Needs To be Fulfilled
With the growing scrutiny of the business practices of India Inc. and an increasingly unsafe and unpredictable world, employee safety has become a rising priority for Indian manufacturing firms. In 2014, the International Labour Organization estimated that 2.3 million people worldwide die each year from occupational accidents and work-related diseases, of which an estimated 1.2 million are in India alone. Juxtaposed against this background are the alarming road fatality statistics in India, with an estimated 400 people dying every day in traffic accidents.
While many companies take measures to protect their employees at the workplace, Travel safety is a neglected area of concern and one where companies have lower awareness and vigilance levels. Particularly in India, manufacturing facilities are located in notoriously unsafe areas.
As a result, employers carry a great Duty of Care obligation to protect their employees even as they travel outside the workplace. For organizations, the Duty of Care is a legal and ethical responsibility to take all reasonable measures necessary to prevent activities that could result in harm to employees and/or their property.
One of the myriad factories set up in Mewat, a hub of industry in Haryana, is MMTC-PAMP’s refinery. Home to India’s largest gold and silver processing facility, the company is also attempting to achieve greater diversity throughout the organization: across locations, hierarchy and roles. With the increasing number of women on its shop floors and in its offices, MMTC-PAMP places great emphasis on the Duty of Care, and has extensive measures implemented to ensure travel safety for its employees.
Among these are buses and cars for transportation, robust relationships with emergency service providers (police, fire departments and hospitals), vehicle monitoring systems, and clear travel guidelines baked into company-wide policies. “Urban centres where corporate offices are located have better transport facilities, ranging from public transit such as the Metro rail to ride-hailing services such as Uber. Manufacturing facilities rarely allow for such access, and companies such as ours need to go the extra mile to truly perform the Duty of Care well,”, Rashmi Dastidar, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer (CRCO) of MMTC-PAMP elaborate.
Gender adds new dimensions to overall employee safety and specifically travel safety. For example, MMTC-PAMP makes sure that its female employees, in particular, are provided safe, door-to-door transport to and from the factory especially during winters that are infamously foggy in the region. Ms. Dastidar says, “An organization’s move towards diversity cannot progress without a proper safety infrastructure that especially accounts for and supports it. Making sure that there are clear guidelines and policies around employee working hours, transit and grievance redress mechanisms is a basic requirement.”
Organizations must also remember that the greatest factor in employee safety is Culture. Creating a company-wide culture that is both aware and respectful of individual and collective safety is the need of the hour.
Ms Dastidar emphasizes that this culture has to start from senior management and the risk office. Having internal risk audits on process and facility safety, an independent external auditor to provide robust feedback on safety measures and a strong safety officer who flags even potential near misses helps build this culture. The true marker of a robust safety culture is the prevalence of conversations around it. “Senior management must regularly take the pulse of the transformation as it unfolds, and encourage discussions around it. Are employees talking about safety over lunch? Are they openly flagging concerns and bringing their suggestions to the table at the appropriate forums? These are important questions that management must ask themselves if employee safety is to become a part of organizational DNA,” Ms. Dastidar concludes.