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SafetyNiti 2022: Are the worker safety policies of India’s top 10 auto-sector brands improving?

In the 5+ years that SII has been operating in the industrial areas of Haryana (Gurugram, Manesar, Bawal and Faridabad), it has located and assisted 3,200+ such injured auto-sector workers, with c.800 workers just in the last FY21-22.

With the number of accidents still this high, we raised question again- Are the workplace safety policies of the auto-sector OEMs adequate to prevent these accidents in their supply chain and have they improved since our last report SafetyNiti2021, which along with our CRUSHED series, we have been using to try influencing the top 10 OEM brands? To address this question, on 15th August 2022, we launched our second annual edition of SafetyNiti 2022.

SafetyNiti2022 analyses the OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) policies of the top 10 auto-sector brands in the country for their supply chains - gaps, opportunities and best practices and progress made in the past year since SafetyNiti 2021. The full report is here.

The report release event, our third Sharmik Sammelan, was attended by 300+ workers (of whom 250+ injured workers) from Aliyar, Bawal, Binola, Dharuhera, Gouchi, Jawahar Colony, Kadipur, Kasan, Manesar, Naharpur and Sohna Chowk at the Apparel House in Gurugram.

For a change we did not invite any high-profile speakers but gave the forum mainly to workers themselves. Here is a panel of workers discussing the safety issues after the release of the report:

Sir, we (workers) should fill the checklist because maintenance people tick ‘okay’ for bad machines too.” – Savita Chowdhury, 24 years, Uttar Pradesh, lost her finger while working in a factory in Faridabad which manufactures automobile parts for Hero, Honda and JCB.

Production [inspector] wants production, quality [inspector] wants quality, but no one thinks about what the worker wants.” – Ajit Shah, 37 years, Bihar, lost his fingers while working in a factory that manufactures automobile components for Maruti.

The opening address to workers by Sandeep Sachdeva, Co-Founder & CEO is here. It was great to see workers confirming that SII has never taken a penny from any worker for its assistance - something a few ESIC and some others have insinuated to discredit SII's work.

A. Key Findings of SafetyNiti 2022:

Once again, we analyzed the publicly available relevant documents of top 10 OEMs for their OSH policies for their deeper supply chain: Ashok Leyland Ltd., Bajaj Auto Ltd., Eicher Motors Ltd., Hero Motocorp Ltd., Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Pvt. Ltd., Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Hyundai Motor Company India, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd., TATA Motors Ltd., and TVS Motor Company Ltd. We present some of our key findings here for our readers below. Please note that this analysis is mainly about presence/absence of policies with some view on their quality and NOT for quality of their implementation. We believe that good policies and implementation will ultimately show up as reduction in accidents as reported in our annual series of bottom-up evidence reports - CRUSHED. We would like to see a consistent reduction in accidents over a three period (post Covid) to congratulate any OEM and indeed ourselves for any sustainable improvements. Here is the status of their policies (up arrow implies some improvement):

1. Are their OSH Policies in the public domain?: Six of the top 10 OEMs have OSH policies in the public domain, same as the previous year.

Automobile brands with their OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) policies in the public domain.

2. Are their OSH Policies for non-permanent (e.g., contract and interns) workers at par with their permanent workers?: non-permanent workers in OEMs are now 60-70% of their workers. However, OSH policies of most OEMs do not explicitly state that they cover contract/casual/temporary workers and other categories such as trainees/apprentices/ probationers even in their factories. Bajaj currently has the best charter of workplace guidelines for contract workers, which includes health and safety. There is some positive movement in others though it is still overall unsatisfactory:

OSH policies of auto brands covering contract/casual/temporary workers and other categories such as trainees/apprentices/probationers even in their factories.

3. Do they have a Supplier Code of Conduct?: This is an essential policy to document ESG expectations from the suppliers. Thankfully, there is some progress in this with now 4 OEMs publishing their SCoC compared to 2 last year.

Automobile brands which have a SCoC (Supplier Code of Conduct).

4. Do they have their Human Rights Policy in the public domain? There is progress in this too with 9 of the 10 now having published their HR policy/statements.

Automobile brands which have stated human rights policy in the public domain.

5. Do they have Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for their deeper supply chain?: None of the OEMs appears to have an SOP or a comprehensive OSH implementation plan for their deeper supply chain.

Automobile brands which appear to have an SOP or a comprehensive OSH implementation plan for their deeper supply chain, same as last year.

However, Bajaj, Hyundai, and Maruti Suzuki have reported ISO 18001/45001 certification for their vendors in their Annual Reports. This three is an improvement since last year. SII has yet to notice a correlation between this certification and accidents in the supply chain.

Automobile brands which appear to have an SOP or a comprehensive OSH implementation plan for their deeper supply chain, same as last year.

6. Do they report on Indicator 8.8 (the only one about worker safety) of SDG 8?: No OEMs have referenced Indicator 8.8 of SDG 8 (“Protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants and those in precarious employment.”) or activities/set targets to achieve Indicator 8.8.

Automobile brands which appear to have an SOP or a comprehensive OSH implementation plan for their deeper supply chain, same as last year.

These findings were presented by Chitra Khanna, our Head of Safety Initiative to the workers. A 13-minute presentation by her is below:

B. Why does SII focus on analyzing these OSH policies for the top 10 auto-sector OEMs? Simply because it's these brands who have the most profits generated from this supply chain, most managerial and technical knowledge, most commercial hold over suppliers and indeed the most influence over government policies and their implementation. And it has been encouraging to see some progress with the auto-sector brands. We appreciate seven of the top ten brands who now regularly discuss the subject with us. For the first time, several other brands (total 17) joined us at a discussion forum organized with SIAM in early August 2022.

We continue to recommend our top 5 policy and 5 operational recommendations to all auto sector brands.

C. What do you, the consumers of automobiles, say on this policy issue?

We ran a consumer poll to understand your perspectives on OEMs’ or suppliers' policies and practices. Most of you agree with the primary responsibility of OEMs and indeed SafetyNiti recommendations.

196 respondents to an SII poll in July 2022 replied to 9 questions on OEM's OSH policies and several also shared their thoughts and opinions. A few are shared below and clearly show that vast majority of you, the consumers of these automobile, want these brands have much better OSH policy framework for their deeper supply chain. As a senior McKinsey executive said "Thanks for the nudge. I did put my hard capitalist-hat on but found it difficult to not agree".

In this journey of making the workplace safer and bringing a change, we request your support. We and indeed the OEMs have made a start but there is a very very long way to go to save lakhs of workers from these grave injuries and to improve Indian labor productivity, currently 128th in the world. Help us in reaching out further and extending our support, by sharing this blog with your friends and colleagues, especially in the auto-sector, the government's labor department, Niti Ayog, etc.

Do let us know by sharing your suggestions and insights on what we do, by writing back to us at

Stay connected and stay safe! 🤗

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