ASSE Ambassador Jitu Patel Helps Raise Safety Awareness in India

ASSE Fellow Jitu C. Patel, CPEA, has made it his personal mission to raise awareness of ASSE on a global level. He has been instrumental in the formation of several international chapters, including most recently ASSE’s India Chapter, which had 51 members when it was founded in March 2012 and today has more than 500 members. With the interest in occupational safety and health (OSH) and ASSE piqued in India, Patel recognized it was an opportune time to do even more. He worked closely with ASSE staff to organize Safety India 2014 as well as three technical conferences delivered in late May and early June 2014.

Improving Occupational Safety in India
India has a long way to go, Patel explains, pointing to the almost-daily industrial accidents common throughout the country. Examples include a chemical factory explosion in Baroda that destroyed an entire factory and left countless people jobless; a pipeline explosion in Andhra Pradesh that caused multiple fatalities; and fatal building collapses in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and other cities. Vehicle crashes are another concern, Patel explains, citing statistics of 700 fatalities per day and many more injuries—and those numbers reflect only the reported incidents.

“Overall, the nation runs miraculously on mere ‘lip service’ that has no respect for life,” Patel states. “The country is sitting on a bomb waiting to explode.” Health-related illnesses due to poor hygiene conditions are rising exponentially. Large number of suicides (ranging from 135,000 to 700,000) are reported each year, with the primary causes being family disputes, illnesses, unemployment, debts and drug abuse. Patel also notes that reporting and recordkeeping systems are bare minimum at best. “In general, only about 7% of industries in India are organized and the remaining 93% are either ignorant of safety or suffer severely from lack of a safety culture, especially because upper management lacks commitment to safety,” he says.

Furthermore, India’s growing population and economy have led to new developments in many sectors, from construction to manufacturing to healthcare and academics. This growth demands matching inputs from OSH professionals in terms of technical and advisory services, safety equipment and products, training and skill development, competence enhancement, promotion and advocacy, inspections and audits, and much more. Patel’s vision is to encourage professional growth in India that will focus on the human and environmental issues that form the core of ASSE’s mission to protect people, property and the environment. Professional development is key to that growth.

Safety India 2014
Safety India 2014 was the first ever ASSE-sponsored professional development conference in India. Held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, May 26-27, the event drew nearly 350 delegates including the U.S. Embassy attaché to India, chair of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, major executives from Indian industry, regulatory authorities and OSH managers from around the country.

Patel also partnered with ASSE and Ajay Sachdeva, managing director, Corporate Governance Advisory, in New Delhi, to organize meetings in Pune, Maharashtra, Vadodara, Gujarat, and Gurgaon (Delhi). These symposia helped OSH managers in India learn about sustainability and corporate responsible care while also expanding their professional network.

Pune, Maharashtra
The technical meeting in Pune, held May 30, 2014, proved that hard work, dedication and vision pay off. Presentations provided updates on national and international trends in OSH and sustainability. Delegates represented major auto and other industries; they included Suresh Tanwar, vice president, HSE, TATA Motors; J.C. Sekar, managing director, ME & Asia Pacific, UL; Rahul Datar, senior vice president, Environmental Management Center (EMC); Sonal Kaushik, associate vice president, EMC; Vijay Bukkawar, director, Indian Chemical Council; Mangesh Kate, senior manager, Forbes Marshall; Vijay Hiremath, assistant general manager, John Deere; Ashok Kumar, division manager, General Motors India; and Nisha Gadge, head, Clide.

Patel also spoke about ASSE resources and benefits, which prompted subsequent conversations about forming an ASSE chapter in Maharashtra.

Vadodara, Gujarat
On June 7, 2014, ASSE’s event in Vadodara was supported by many, including Dr. P.T. Shah, honorable general secretary, Gujarat Safety Council (GSC); M.M. Shah, joint general secretary, GSC; P.K. Mukhopadhyay, executive deputy director, chief controller of explosives, Nagpur; Pravin Trivedi and N.M. Parekh, Trivedi Associates; Himanshu Patel, CEO, Complete Fire Design Solutions; Sheela Mistry, CEO, Insight Associates; Manoj Kamaliya, vice president, HSE, Reliance Industry Ltd.; K.L. Katiyal, retired chief engineer, ONGC; Ashok Garlapati, senior environmental engineer, Kuwait.

Attendees included dignitaries, speakers, OSH managers, industry executives, consultants and specialists, who thanked Patel for recognizing the need for better OSH in India and “for awakening the nation” about using OSH knowledge to increase health, hygiene and overall safety. Attendees also expressed gratitude for Patel’s advice that they should focus on prevention and strive to implement value-added procedures and practices that improve safety.

Gurgaon/Delhi
The meeting in Gurgaon/Delhi was held June 17, 2014. It marked ASSE’s first major outreach in India’s North Capital Region. Supporters included Sangeeta Robinson, founder and CEO, Enduring Value Advisory and Practice LLP; Dr. G.P. Bhagat, national president, Guru Vishram Vridh Ashram; Dr. A.K. Saxena, empanelled assessor, National Accreditation Board for Education and Training; S.V. Mathur, expert, corporate social responsibility; Dr. S. Mudgal, WHO and World Bank specialist and vice chancellor, Amity University; and Dr. Deepak Kumar, president, Bharati Foundation.

The day was filled with presentations explaining opportunities to contribute to corporate social responsible care. Bhagat spoke about community service; Robinson discussed developing a business case for sustainability; Mathur offered an introduction to sustainability indices; Mudgal provided insight on ergonomics and explained environmental health impact assessments. Ajay Sachdeva spoke about corporate governance, risk assessment and the draft ISO 45001 standard; and Ashok Garlapati provided an overview of the globally harmonized system and its implications for India. Patel concluded with a presentation on disasters that have lesson learning potential.

During the event, representatives from Amity University asked for guidance on introducing OSH degree programs and expressed interest in forming a student chapter. This builds on Patel’s successful efforts to help form student chapters in different parts of India:

Next Steps
Given the major oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical facilities throughout India, as well as the steel and construction industries, Patel projects that an active OSH professional organization is needed to work concurrently at different locations to maintain the momentum. “There is enough interest in private and public sector to support ASSE’s mission,” Patel says, “but we need reliable and effective leaders who can provide the badly needed guidance to show the path to making a difference in health, hygiene and safety conditions in the workplace, and also off the job.” The shortage of expertise is so acute that Patel reports being overwhelmed with requests for more technical seminars and expertise from locations such as Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Surat, Ahmedabad and Kochin. He finds that encouraging, however. “The seeds have been sown to launch more student chapters and full professional chapters with greater possibilities for a much wider scope throughout the country,” Patel says.

Patel is also happy to report that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a nationwide Clean India campaign that should help improve public safety and the nation’s hygiene concerns. In addition, Modi’s Make in India campaign is attracting significant international interest in investing in India’s infrastructure and manufacturing industries. According to Patel, this will lead to an even greater demand for OSH professionals in India.

Given the high-risk hazards present throughout the country, Patel concludes that all of these initiatives must take strong and deep roots. “Everyone’s contributions—no matter how big or small in any form or kind with passion and care for the nation—would be of great value and would be very much appreciated,” he states. “The time is now to act.” If interested in helping to expand ASSE’s outreach in India, contact Patel at pateljc2002@yahoo.com.

Be sure to scroll through the image gallery below. To start the slideshow, click on the first image, then click on the “Play” icon. To learn more about any photo, click the “information” icon.