Factories Act, 1948 – History, Objective & Applicability

By | September 3, 2020
Factories Act, 1948

Factories Act, 1948 | Overview

Introduction

The factory is a building or premise where people use machines and physical labour to produce goods. The factories act, 1948 were passed by the constituent assembly on 28th August 1948, the governor-general of India gave his assent on September 23, 1948, and it came into force on 1st April 1949.

It provides safeguards to health, safety and welfare of workers in the factories as well as protection to the exploited workers to increase their working conditions in the industries or factories. It will also monitor the owners of the premises and strict observations will be made concerning factories and other working conditions of labourers. The Act covers 120 sections, 11 chapters and 3 schedules.

History of the Act

  • The Factories Act, 1881- The first Indian factories Act was enacted in 1881(15th of 1881). This Act mainly focussed on the prohibition of employment of children under 7 years of age and their double employment on the same day. This Act was made applicable to the factories with more than 100 workers and the factory with mechanical power.
  • The Factories Act, 1891- Due to deficiency and loophole in the 1881 Act, it led to continuous trouble made by the employers. The commission in 1884 considered the queries made by the employers. Then the Indian Factories Act, 1891 was enacted.
  • The Factories Act, 1911- The safety provisions contained in the 1891 Act were inadequate and there were several fires occurred in the premises which led to resulting in more than 50 deaths between 1901 and 1905. Therefore, The Factories Act 1911 was enacted to safeguard the workers in factories.
  • The Factories Act, 1922- After World War I, the inauguration of the International Labour Organisation was made in 1919 which focussed on working hours, minimum age, night work of women and children. In 1921, there was a strike regarding the ratification of the convention by the labours. Therefore, in 1922 The Factories Act, 1911 was amended to include provisions regarding working hours, minimum age and night work of women and children.
  • The Factories Act, 1934- In 1929, a Royal Commission was set up to review the existing Act and to make recommendations for the sustainable development in labour’s living conditions. Hence, The Factories Act, 1934 was enacted and it came into force in 1935 which included the inspection and observation of the factories which applies to factories employing 20 or more workers with power.
  • The Factories Act, 1948- The Factories Act, 1934 were subsequently amended in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947 and major amendment in 1948. During the interim congress regime a five-year plan was drawn to consolidate the labour conditions and to revise the 1934 Act like the United Kingdom Factories Act 1937 and according to the International Labour Organisation in the matters of health, safety, welfare, working hours, hygiene, medical examination and submission of plans of factories and industries. Hence, the Factories Act 1948 came into force on April 1, 1949.[1]

Object of the Act

  • To prevent human beings from working long hours with bodily strain or manual labour.
  • To provide the employees to work in healthy and hygienic conditions.
  • To safeguard the workers from hazardous works and the prevention of accidents.
  • To ensure annual leaves with wages.
  • To protect women and children in the course of employment.

Importance of the Act

The Factories in India is the most essential element regarding economic development, also it is the duty of the state to safeguard every citizen of India with health and safety conditions which are a most important notable thing for the employees in factories. The factories act aimed to safeguard the interest of workers, precautions and preventions in hazardous works, health and safety in the working zone, to stop their exploitation, cast obligations towards the employers and managers to protect every employee and protection of women and children.

Scope and applicability of the Act

The Act extends to the whole of India including Jammu and Kashmir. The Act applies to every premises which has 10 or more workers in the manufacturing process and powers also, premises with 20 or more workers in the manufacturing process and no power. The Act which empowers the state government to declare any of the factories or premises of the Act apply to secure safety, health and welfare, but it does not include a mine or mobile unit belonging to armed forces of union, restaurants or hotels.

Salient features of the Act

  • Working hours of the workers should not exceed 48 hours per week and there must be a weekly holiday.
  • For the protection of the health of the workers the Act lays down, there must be prevention and precautions in every factory. There must be restrooms, adequate lighting, ventilators, temperature to be provided. The workplace should be kept clean and hygiene.
  • To ensure the safety of the workers, the factories should be fully fenced and children should not be allowed to work in hazardous and confined areas. Also, the state government has to monitor every factory to ensure the safety measures are taken and followed as per the guidelines.
  • For the welfare of the workers, there must be restrooms, lunchrooms, first aid appliances, shelters, crèches to be provided. The facilities for washing to be provided and maintained properly for the purpose of workers.
  • If any person violates the provision of the factories act it shall be treated as an offence and can be punished with an imprisonment of 3 months or fine up to 1 lakh rupees or both. If any of the employees misuse any facility granted concerning the health, safety and welfare he/she shall be punished with fines up to 500 rupees.

Important definitions

  1. Factory

According to Section 2(m), “factory” means any premises including the precincts thereof—

  1.  whereon ten or more workers are working or were working on any day of the preceding twelve months, and in any part of which a manufacturing process is being carried on with the aid of power, or is ordinarily so carried on, or
  2. whereon twenty or more workers are working or were working on any day of the preceding twelve months, and in any part of which a manufacturing process is being carried on without the aid of power, or is ordinarily so carried on-

but does not include a mine subject to the operation of [the Mines Act, 1952 (35 of 1952)], or [a mobile unit belonging to the armed forces of the Union, a railway running shed or a hotel, restaurant or eating place].

2. Adult

Section 2(a) deals with adults – An ‘Adult’ means a person who has completed his eighteenth year of age.

3. Adolescent

Section 2(b) deals with adolescents- An “Adolescent” means a person, who completes his fifteenth year of age but not his eighteenth year. Hence, he is someone who crosses the age of a child but is not an adult yet.

4. Child

Section 2 c deals with child- A ‘child’ means a person who has not completed his 15th year of age.

5. Competent Person

Section 2(ca) deals with a competent person- A “competent person”, with any provision of this Act, means a person or an institution recognized as such by the Chief Inspector to carry out tests, examinations and inspections required to be done in a factory.

6. Calendar Year

Section 2(bb) deals with the calendar year- ‘Calendar Year’ means 12 months beginning with the first day of January in any year. Hence, it is different from the Financial Year (starts from 1st April).

7. Day

Section 2(e) deals with ‘day’- It means 24 hours beginning at midnight.

8. Week

Section 2(f) deals with ‘week’- It means seven days beginning at midnight on Saturday night or such other night (which CIF certifies).

9. Transmission Machinery

Section 2 (i) deals with ‘transmission machinery’ – It means any shaft, wheel, drum, pulley, a system of pulleys, coupling, clutch, driving belt or other appliance or device by which the motion of a prime mover reaches any machinery or appliance.

10. Worker

Section 2(l) deals with worker- “Worker” means a person employed, directly or by or through any agency (including a contractor) with or without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, in any the manufacturing process, or in cleaning any part of the machinery or premises used for a manufacturing process, or in any other kind of work incidental to, or connected with, the manufacturing process, or the subject of the manufacturing process but does not include any member of the armed forces of the union.

11. Shift ane Relay

Section 2(r) deals with ‘shift’ and ‘relay’- Where work of the same kind is carried out by 2 or more sets of workers working during different periods of the day, each of such sets is called a ‘relay’ and each of such periods is called a ‘shift’.

12. Manufacturing Process

Section 2(k) deals with manufacturing process- “Manufacturing process” means any process for—

  1. Making, altering, repairing, ornamenting, finishing, packing, oiling, washing, cleaning, breaking up, demolishing, or otherwise treating or adapting any article or substance with a view to its use, sale, transport, delivery or disposal, or
  2. Pumping oil, water, sewage or any other substance; or;
  3. Generating, transforming or transmitting power; or
  4. Composing types for printing, printing by letterpress, lithography, photogravure, other similar process or bookbinding;
  5. Constructing, reconstructing, repairing, refitting, finishing or breaking up ships or vessels; (Inserted by the Factories (Amendment) Act, 1976, w.e.f. 26-10-1976.)
  6. Preserving or storing any article in cold storage.[2]

Judicial pronouncement regarding the definitions

  1. In the case, Lal Bavta Hotel Aur Bakery Mazdoor v. Ritz Private Limited[3] The Bombay high court held that the establishment of hotels, restaurants or any eating places will not fall under the definition of the factory under section 2(m) of the Factories Act, 1948.
  2. In the case Lal Mohammad v. Indian Railway Construction Co Ltd[4], the supreme court held that the workers who are working under the construction works will be covered under the definition of workmen under section 2(l) of the factories act, 1948 as they are working for remuneration under the manufacturing process.
  3. In the case, Parry co Ltd, Presiding Officer, II Additional Labor Court[5], the madras court held that the commercial establishment receiving the products in bulk, packaging and dispatching them as per the customer’s requirement will be covered under section 2(k) of Factories Act, 1948 as it is a manufacturing process.

Responsible persons under the Factories Act,1948

The responsible persons under the factories act will be the manager and the occupier for the implementation of provisions envisaged under the act. According to Section 2(n) “occupier” means the person who has ultimate control over the affairs of the factory. After the Supreme Court judgment in the case J.K. Industries Limited v. The Chief Inspector Of Factories[6], 1996Manager” means the person who is responsible for the occupier for the working of the factory and he has to be nominated by the occupier.

Main provisions covered in the Act:

  • Duties of the Occupier.
  • Powers and duties of Inspectors.
  • Provisions regarding the Health of workers
  • Provisions regarding the Safety of workers
  • Provisions regarding the Welfare of workers
  • Working hours for adult workers
  • Annual leave with wages
  • Provisions regarding the strength of workers
  • Provisions regarding women employment
  • Provisions regarding child labour
  • Dangerous operations
  • Notifiable diseases, accidents and dangerous occurrences.
  • Special provisions relating to hazardous processes
  • Accidents and dangerous occurrences
  • Rights and obligation of workers
  • Penalties and procedures.

Major Amendments

  • The Factories (Amendment) Act,1954

The Indian Government ratified the Convention on International Labour organisation and prohibited the employment of women and young persons in factories during night time. Therefore, sections 66,70 and 71 were amended. Also, the prohibition of women and young persons from cleaning, lubrication and machinery in motion. Revision of chapter relating to leave with wages to fix 240 days attendance to increase the limit of carried forward leave. Allowing 6 hours of work at one stretch without interval, if the shift is for 6 hours.

  • The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1976

After the 1948 and 1954 amendment, the industrial growth was continued and there is a need for safety officers in every factory and industries to deal with the matters relating to health and safety of workers. Therefore, the factories amendment act of 1976 was enacted. The amendments included the changes in definitions of the manufacturing process, worker, factory, occupier, where the term ‘contract labour’ was included under the definition of worker. There must be approval and prior permission for the site. The inquiry into fatal accidents was fixed under section 82 which is one month.

Under section 92 of the Act, the fine limit raised to Rs. 2000 from Rs. 500, and for the enhanced penalty to Rs. 5000 from Rs. 1000 under section 94 and provision of minimum fine in case of the fatal accident and serious bodily injury (Rs. 1000 for death and Rs. 500 for serious bodily injury, these figures were doubled in case of enhanced penalty).

New additions were made by section 36A regarding use of portable electric light, section 40A for maintenance of the building, 40B for Safety Officers, 62(1-A) and 73(1-A) for more particulars in muster roll, 88A for notice of dangerous occurrences and section 91A for safety and health surveys.

  • The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1987

After the Bhopal gas tragedy, it has created a global safety awareness and influenced the government of India to impose more requirements to ensure the health and safety of the workers. Hence, the state and central government were passed a new act for the environmental protection (i.e) Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, also the government made necessary changes in the existing factories (amendment) act, 1986 which added a new chapter IV A on hazardous processes and severe penalties and imprisonments for breaches.

  • The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014

The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014 was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 7, 2014.  It proposes to amend the Factories Act, 1948. The Act aims to ensure adequate safety measures and promote the health and welfare of the workers employed in factories.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons states that the amendments proposed in the Bill are based on the changes in the manufacturing practices and technologies, ratification of ILO conventions, judicial decisions, recommendations of various Committees and decisions taken in the conferences of Chief Inspectors of Factories.[7]

  • The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016

The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 10, 2016, by the Minister for Labour and Employment, Mr Bandaru Dattatreya. The Bill amends the Factories Act, 1948. The Act regulates the safety, health and welfare of factory workers. The Bill amends provisions related to overtime hours of work. The Act permits the state government to prescribe rules on a range of matters, the bill provides such rule-making powers to the central government as well.

The Act permits the state government to make rules related to the regulation of overtime hours of work. However, the total number of hours of overtime must not exceed 50 hours for a quarter. The Bill raises this limit to 100 hours. Rules in this regard may be prescribed by the central government as well and many other changes.[8]

Conclusion

The Factories Act plays an important role in the industrial sector, it gives a wide range of benefits to the workers in the factory and industry. It relatively increased their working conditions, health, safety and welfare. Workers are considered as a backbone of our Indian economy, the government made vital amendments to enhance the living conditions of the workers. Moreover, the Act brought awareness to the workers of various provisions to safeguard their interest and force the employer who acts in default to be conscious of his legal duties.


[1]Saurabh Ranjan, History of the safety movement and the factories act, Available Here

[2] The Factories Act, 1948, Available Here

[3] 2007 (5) BomCR 456

[4] 1998 Supp (3) SCR 343

[5] 1997 (3) CTC 209

[6] SLP (C) No. 12498/96.

[7]PRS Legislative Research, The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2014, Available Here

[8]PRS Legislative Research, The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Available Here


  1. Labour Law; Notes, Cases & Study Material
  2. Minimum Wages Act, 1948: Important Provisions
Author: M. Preetha

Student: Saveetha School of Law

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