Supreme Court calls for Investigation on Silicosis Cases

The three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, in the public interest litigation, expressed concerns on the growing and neglected cases of silicosis. The application was filed by Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) student Usama Khawar on behalf of 18 labourers employed at stone-crushing factories suffering from silicosis.

As per the Supreme Court order issued on June 8, “…it has become apparent that the existing legislation may in important respects be inadequate to address the issues of occupational hazards, and also that existing legislation might not be extensive enough to cover workers other than those employed in factories governed by the Factories Act or mines covered by the Mines and Minerals Act or by the environment protection regimes currently in force within the country.”

Nasimur Rehman Shah of the Environment Department told the court that a model draft of the law has been sent to the SC law and Justice Commission Secretary and that the draft would be presented to the Court on July 14.

Arshad Mehmood from the Labour Department presented the Punjab Hazardous Occupation Rules (Silicon) 2015. These rules contain provisions about the working environment which needs to be implemented, silica dust control mechanisms that need to be planted and the threshold value of the amount of dust that could be found at a unit. These rules also contain mandatory provisions for medical inspection.

As per the complainant, Khawar, silicosis is often misdiagnosed as tuberculosis. One of the main reasons amounting to such an increase is that the employers have no record of the workers illness or their demise as they often tend to leave their jobs and locate back to their villages when diagnosed with the disease.