Labor group pushes for passage of safer workplace bill
A workers’ group on Monday urged the Senate to expedite the passage of the bill on occupational safety that impose stiff penalties to companies that fail to observe safety standards in workplace.
Federation of Free Workers (FFW) pushed for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1317 or the Occupational Safety Hazard (OSH) Code, following the deaths of 38 call center employees in a Davao City mall fire last week.
“Workers can’t afford to wait for another raging inferno before Congress gets its act together and adopt a new law that will ensure safety and health at the workplace,” said FFW president Atty. Sonny Matula.
“The Senate is well aware of a number of workplace accidents but we don’t know the reasons why it is taking our senators a long time to act on a long pending urgent measure,” he added.
The bill, which has been approved by the House of Representatives on its third and final reading last January 2017, aims to strengthen compliance with occupational safety and health standards and provide stiff penalties for violations.
Matula said the Philippines has no comprehensive law on occupational safety and health, noting that the government only has separate administrative issuances on OSH by the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Energy.
These orders cover different industries and workplaces—including manufacturing, construction, mining operations and power plants—and mostly with “archaic provisions which are difficult to implement with fines ranging only from P1,000 to P10,000,” Matula explained.
“The pains and sufferings caused by the preventable call center fire in Davao City to the families, relatives and friends are incalculable and unquantifiable,” he said.
The lawyer said unsafe or unhealthy workplaces are “causing lives and limbs as well as destruction of properties which affect both workers and employers.”
He cited several incidents of workplace accidents over the past years, including the 46-hour fire at the House Technology Industries (HTI) in Cavite that killed three workers and injured 125 in February last year; the Kentex Manufacturing factory fire in Valenzuela City in May 2015 wherein 72 workers perished; and the collapse of the open-pit coal mine of Semirara Mining Corporation in Antique in July 2015, burying nine workers alive.
“These numbers show the poor state of compliance with the occupational safety and health standards. Despite the fact that workplace accidents would always prompt tighter regulations, compliance by all industries continue to be an issue,” Matula pointed out.
The measure strengthens the Labor secretary’s visitorial powers and sets the administrative fine to violators with P100,000 per day the violation is committed or such amount set by the Labor secretary.
It also fines employers with P100,000 to P250,000 for every injury and P250,000 to P500,000 for every death that resulted in the violation of the law. /jpv