Press Release
May 22, 2017

Safety and Health in the Workplace: Making it Work for All

Magandang hapon po sa ating lahat.

Mr. President, we envision humane conditions of work for all Filipinos. By ensuring maximum safety and health at work, we believe that productivity will increase and businesses will be more successful and more sustainable.

For this cause, I am pleased to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1317 or "An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof" under Committee Report No. 100.

The House of Representatives has already approved this bill on third reading. It is my fervent hope that this august chamber will also support and approve this bill as soon as possible, thing being one of the priority measures of the Government.

Napakaimportante po ng panukalang ito sapagkat buhay at kaligtasan ng manggagawa ang nakataya sa pagpapabaya. Integridad ng mga negosyo ang nalalagay sa alanganin sa tuwing may aksidente o peligro sa trabaho. Kung ligtas at malusog ang ating manggagawa, magiging mas maayos ang kanilang trabaho, mas lalago ang negosyo, mas lalakas ang ekonomiya ng bansa.

Workplace Accidents

Mr. President, no one should be expected to risk life in return for a contract of employment. Deaths, injuries and illnesses due to unsafe or unhealthy workplaces affect both workers and employers. The pain and suffering caused by these accidents and illnesses to workers, their families and to the nation is incalculable.

Just a few days ago, a three-hour fire gutted the warehouse of Yokohama Tire Philippines, a tire factory in Clark, Pampanga. Up to now, the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Last February, the House Technology Industries or HTI burned for 46 hours due to a mechanical accident. HTI is the biggest employer in Cavite Export Processing Zone with over 15,000 workers. The fire left behind three deaths and a total of 125 injured workers not to mention the cost of damage estimated to reach P12-15 billion pesos.

Isa sa mga manggagawang nasawi dahil sa sunog sa HTI ay si Alex Lerog, 30 taong gulang, matapos masunog ang mahigit animnapung porsiyento ng kanyang katawan. Line Leader sa factory ng HTI si Alex, tubong Monica, Surigao del Sur. Ang haligi ng tahanan ng mga Lerog, nagbuwis ng buhay sa trahedyang naganap pa mismo sa kanilang lugar-paggawa. Lugar na dapat sana'y nagseseguro sa kanilang kaligtasan habang ginagampanan ang kanilang mga gawain sa kumpanya.

In November 2016, two children were killed and five others were injured when a firework factory exploded in Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

In May 2015, seventy-two workers perished at the massive fire that razed the two-storey factory building of Kentex Manufacturing in Valenzuela City.

In July 2015, nine workers were buried when the open pit coal mine of Semirara Mining Corporation collapsed.

In January 2011, ten construction workers plunged to their deaths in an accident at the construction site of the Eton Residences in Makati City. Workers fell from as high as the 34th floor to the 7th floor after the service elevator carrying them collapsed. They were installing a glass panel at the time of the accident.

Mr. President, these tragedies are preventable through the implementation of sound prevention, reporting and inspection practices. Actions should be taken by the government and within enterprises to promote occupational safety and health and to improve working conditions.

Gravity of the Problem

According to DOLE, from January 2014 to October 2016, there were reported 199 fatal workplace accidents and 232 non-fatal accidents. These numbers show the poor state of compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS). Despite the fact that workplace accidents would always prompt tighter regulations, compliance by all industries continue to be an issue.

Mr. President, diseases or chronic illnesses also hound our workers: back pain, hypertension, peptic ulcer, stroke, tuberculosis, cataracts, deafness, and the multitude of chronic ailments that arise from exposure to chemicals and other hazards in the course of work.

The survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in October 2015 showed that occupational diseases in establishments employing 20 or more workers doubled in 2013 at 171,787, from only 85,483 in 2011.

Cases of occupational diseases increased in eleven industry groups, with high increases occurring in mining and quarrying, construction, administrative and support service activities and information and communications.

Nakakaawa po ang mga manggagawa na nagkakasakit dulot ng kanilang trabaho na pwede naman sanang maiwasan kung tatalima lang tayo sa mga alituntunin para sa kaligtasan at kalusugan sa mga lugar-paggawa.

Mr. President, your Committee believes that non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards is a crime, a reckless endangerment that should not be tolerated.

The need to Amend the Labor Code

Sadly, for the longest time, there are no fines or penalties meted out for the violation of occupational health and safety standards. The DOLE Regional Director can only issue a Work Stoppage Order in cases of imminent danger that would result to disabling injury, pursuant to Article 128 of the Labor Code.

The 42-year old Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS, which makes Article 288 of the Code inapplicable.

Mr. President, Senate Bill No. 1317 seeks to amend the Labor Code to emphasize the importance of OSH, outlining the rights and obligations of the employer and workers and the responsible government agencies.

Mr. President, we have witnessed the massive changes in our workplaces brought about by the dynamism of work processes, and innovations in products, services and technologies. It's about time that we "modernize" the Labor Code specifically, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, which does not yet contain criminal penalties.

Let's make OSHS attuned to the times. Let's make safety and health in the workplace work for all.

Important provisions the Bill

For this reason, Senate Bill No. 1317 provides penalties for non-compliance with OSHS. This is to reiterate that violation of OSH standards is a deliberate disrespect of the well-being of our workers and derogation of their right to humane conditions of work.

The proposed administrative penalty of I00,000.00 pesos for every day of non-correction of violation intends to bring about immediate correction.

The proposed measure also guarantees the payment of workers wages or income during work stoppage or suspension of operation due to imminent danger as a result of the employer's violation or fault.

Kung mapatigil ang trabaho o masuspinde ang kumpanya dahil sa kapabayaan, karapatan ng mga manggagawa na makatanggap pa rin nang tuloy-tuloy ng kanilang sweldo. Ginagarantiyahan po ito ng panukalang batas.

Furthermore, the bill outlines the duties and responsibilities of all stakeholders and including a coordinative mechanism for inter-agency harmonization of functions and mandates on occupational safety and health of the nine (9) concerned government agencies.

Labor Law Compliance Officers

Mr. President, since a large part of this proposed measure deals with enforcement and inspection, the role of Labor Law Compliance Officers is a crucial aspect in achieving the intent of the measure.

We are glad to hear that DOLE has increased the number of its Labor Law Compliance Officers, now with 574 plantilla officers. This figure is close to the ILO recommended whole-year work standard ratio enforcement of one compliance officer for every 120 establishments. Early this year, the DOLE has requested for additional budget to hire 200 more labor law compliance officers. Once granted, this will bring the number of labor law compliance officers to 774.

In this light, the bill seeks to complement the role of our Labor Law Compliance Officers by requiring a safety and health program that contains policies in all establishments, projects, sites and all other places where work is being undertaken. It shall be enforced by full-time safety officers who shall undergo the mandatory training on basic occupational safety and health as prescribed by the DOLE.

The bill also seeks to professionalize, upgrade, and update the level of competence of workers in all critical occupations or jobs that affect people's lives and safety, through the mandatory competency assessment and certification by TESDA.

Mr. President, it is not enough that we express our heartfelt sympathy to those who were killed in workplace accidents or those who suffered workplace injuries or illnesses.

We need a proactive approach to help employers, workers and the government find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt. We need a law that places a premium on safety and health in all workplaces. Let's make safety and health in the workplace work for all.

Again, Mr. President, I urge our colleagues' support. Let us all work together to ensure the immediate passage of the OSHS Bill.

Ipasa natin ang Senate Bill No. 1317 upang maipatupad ang mga pamantayan sa ligtas at maayos na lugar ng paggawa sa lahat ng lugar, oras at pagkakataon para sa kapakinabangan ng lahat.

Maraming salamat po at pagpalain tayo ng Panginoon.

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