The Factories Act of 1948: Safeguarding Workers’ Rights and Safety in India


The Factories Act of 1948 stands as a landmark legislation in India, aimed at protecting the rights, welfare, and safety of workers employed in factories. This blog post delves into the historical context, evolution, key provisions, and the significance of this crucial law.

Evolution of Factories and Industries in India

Modern industrialization in India traces back over a century, lagging behind the United Kingdom by several decades. The first cotton textile factory emerged in Bombay in 1854, sparking an industrial revolution.

By 1870, industries had proliferated in Bombay, Nagpur, Kanpur, and Madras. The early use of women and children in factories, along with long working hours and hazardous conditions, raised concerns and led to the need for protective labor legislation.

In 1875, a committee was formed to investigate the working conditions of Indian factory employees. The first Factory Act was enacted in 1881 under the leadership of Lord Ripon.

Factory Act of 1881

The Factory Act of 1881 was inspired by the British Factory Act of 1937 and gave local governments the authority to implement rules to regulate child labor, machinery safety, accident reporting, and other aspects of factory work.

Notable provisions included limiting the working hours for children, granting them four holidays per month, and ensuring the safe operation of machinery.

However, the 1881 Act had its limitations, leading to further amendments.

Factory Act of 1891

In 1885, a Factory Commission was established, and in 1891, the Factories Act underwent further amendments. This Act introduced stricter regulations on working hours, prohibited the employment of children under nine, and established weekly holidays for all employees.

It also empowered provincial governments to enact sanitation and comfort rules.

Factory Act of 1948: A Pinnacle in Labor Legislation

The Factory (Amendment) Act of 1948 marked a significant milestone in India’s labor laws. Influenced by the Factory Act of 1934, the UK Factory Act, and international labor conventions, it addressed safety, health, working hours, and more.

During the 1942 conference, India took its first steps towards labor cooperation. A Plenary Tripartite Conference and a Standing Labor Committee were formed to advise the government on labor-related issues.

The Factory Bill was proposed in 1948, approved by the Constituent Assembly on August 28, 1948, and became effective on April 1, 1949.

Definitions under the Factories Act, 1948

Chapter I of the Act provides essential definitions, including:

  • Factory: Premises with 10 or more workers using power or 20 or more without power for manufacturing.
  • Manufacturing Process: Any process involving making, altering, repairing, or handling articles or substances.
  • Worker: Any person employed directly or indirectly in manufacturing.
  • Hazardous Process: Involves substances listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Act, known for their explosive, toxic, or corrosive nature.

Key Sections and Provisions

Sections 6 and 7: Approval, Licensing, and Registration

  • Factories must obtain government approval and licenses before commencing operations.
  • Licenses must be renewed annually.
  • Non-compliance may lead to license revocation.

Section 7A: General Duties of the Occupier

  • The occupier must ensure workers’ health, safety, and welfare.
  • Duties include providing safe machinery, work environments, information, and medical examinations.

Chapter II: The Inspecting Staff (Sections 8 to 10)

  • Section 8 deals with the appointment of inspectors.
  • Section 9 outlines the powers of inspectors, including entry, examination, inquiry into accidents, and more.
  • Section 10 addresses the role of certifying surgeons in ensuring workers’ health.


The Factories Act of 1948 has been pivotal in safeguarding the rights and safety of factory workers in India. Its evolution reflects the nation’s commitment to improving labor conditions and promoting worker welfare. The Act’s provisions, including definitions and key sections, serve as a foundation for ensuring that factories adhere to safety and health standards. It stands as a testament to India’s dedication to worker protection in the realm of industrialization.

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