Cubao mall not liable for septic tank deaths, says QC execBy Jeannette I. Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Quezon City building officials have cleared a major shopping mall of liability in last week’s death of four septic tank cleaners, who drowned in wastewater, after finding no violation committed by the management.
Engineer Rodel Mesa, the head of the city’s Safe Building Division, however, observed that the employers of the men killed in the August 30 drowning might be held liable for violation of the Labor Code’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards.
Mesa told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that, based on their inspection, the septic tank of the Ali Mall at the Araneta Center in Cubao, was “safe” and that there was no sign of overflow.
Four men, identified as Romy Suarez, his sons Rommel and Rodel and their co-worker Marvin Aleman, all employees of the RCBC Plumbing Services, drowned in wastewater.
He compared the actual septic tank, or the digestive chamber, to a typical room with dimensions of 3.5 by 3.5 by 3 meters and a height of 10 feet.
“It is of normal design and apart from the digestive chamber, has two leaching chambers before the wastewater drains out into the sewer line,” Mesa explained, adding that a typical septic tank only has one leaching chamber, where wastewater is filtered of gunk and other matter.
The septic tank services seven restaurants of the mall, most of them with comfort rooms, and the Pasig City-based RCBC plumbing services had been called in as part of the building’s maintenance.
He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that if the plumbing service had been in-house, the mall would have been found liable for violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards because of the lack of safety equipment for the workers.
“The plumbing service is a third party contracted by Ali Mall and is outside the city’s jurisdiction,” Mesa pointed out.
During the August 30 drowning, the four men were all half-naked, one of them clad only in his underwear, and had only been provided a ladder, siphoning and declogging equipment, as well as a length of rope.
The rope, which had been tied around the worker lowered into the septic tank, apparently slipped off when wastewater rushed into the declogged chamber and his co-workers tried to pull him out. The three other men drowned as well when they panicked and jumped in to save their co-worker.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, the workers should have been provided secure harnesses, protective suits, and gas masks.