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Introduction to Factory Act 1948

Factories Act, 1948 – History, Objective & Applicability



The factory is a building or premise where people use machines and physical labour to produce goods. The factory 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.

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.

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.


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.