Press Release
May 16, 2017

Villanueva calls for passage of Occupational Safety and Health Bill following factory fire in Clark

Senator Joel Villanueva has called for the passage of a bill seeking to provide administrative and criminal penalties for non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) following a huge fire that hit Yokohama Tire Complex in Clark Freeport Zone on Sunday afternoon.

Villanueva's Senate Bill No. 1317 or "An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof" was filed as a result of numerous violations of OSH standards in the country that eventually led to injuries or death of workers.

"Sadly, the incident in the Yokohama Tire Complex in Clark is not the first time that a fire has broken inside an industrial complex," Villanueva said.

Last February 1, House Technology Industries (HTI), the biggest employer in Cavite Export Processing Zone with 15,000 workers, burned for 46 hours leaving behind one death and a total of 125 injured workers not to mention the cost of damage estimated to reach P15 billion.

On May 13, 2015, Kentex fire claimed the lives of 72 workers. It can also be recalled that 9 workers were buried when the open pit coal mine of Semirara Mining Corporation collapsed in July 2015, and also 10 workers plunged to their deaths after the scaffolding bearing them collapsed during the construction of Eton Properties in Makati in January 2011.

"These incidents highlight the necessity of strengthening our current occupational safety and health standards. Owners of establishments must be proactive in ensuring the safety of their workers and in minimizing hazards in the workplace," Villanueva stressed.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) survey, which was released in October 2015, showed that occupational diseases is increasing. The survey shows cases of occupational diseases in establishments employing 20 or more workers doubling in 2013 at 171,787, from only 85,483 in 2011. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has recently urged local employers to take work-related hazards seriously.

Cases of occupational diseases increased in eleven industry groups, with high increases occurring in mining and quarrying, at 983.7% (up from 854 to 9,255); construction at 377.1% (up from 875 to 4,175); administrative and support service activities at 329.1% (up from 13,078 to 56,115); and information and communications at 177.3% (up from 2,257 to 6,258).

The ILO said that among the sectors considered vulnerable are: agriculture, construction, mining, and manufacturing.

"These tell us the state of compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS). Despite the fact that workplace accidents would almost always prompt tighter regulations, compliance by all industries continue to be an issue," Villanueva said.

As such, the bill seeks to amend the 41-year old Labor Code of the Philippines which does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.

At present, the DOLE Regional Director can only issue work stoppage order in cases of imminent danger pursuant to Article 128 of the Code.

Under the proposed measure, an amount of P100,000.00 will serve as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for every day of non-correction of violation while an amount ranging from P250,000.00 to P500,000.00 or imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years will be meted out if a worker dies.

Additionally, the bill outlines the duties and responsibilities of all stakeholders and includes a coordinative mechanism for inter-agency harmonization of functions and mandates on occupational safety and health of the nine concerned government agencies.

"This bill reiterates that violations of OSH standards are not only patent disregard of standards but deliberate disrespect of the well-being of our workers and derogation of their right to safe and healthy workplaces. We will make sure that violations of OSH standards will not be tolerated with just a slap on the wrist," Villanueva said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development is set to tackle the proposed measure tomorrow, May 17.

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