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On the 4th Year of Eton Tragedy Aquino challenged to take steps to enforce OSH standards, prevent worker accidents

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The safety organization Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) called on the Aquino administration to decisively act on the rising number of accidents and deaths in workplaces caused by grave violations of occupational safety rules.

President’s Aquino’s term will be remembered for the long list of workers who died because of unsafe working conditions. In January 2011, during his first year of presidency, 10 construction workers of Eton Properties died due to violations of safety standards. Four years after and his last year in the presidency, another tragic accident occurred in a construction site in Bulacan which claimed the lives of 11 people.

“This continuous neglect of our workers’ basic right to life should stop. We challenge the Aquino administration to address this urgent issue to prevent the loss of more lives,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD advocacy officer.

IOHSAD listed down four immediate steps that the government should take to show its serious commitment in protecting workers’ health and safety.

1) Repeal Department Order 57-04 issued by the Department of Labor which allows establishments with at least 200 workers to carry out self-assessment of working conditons including its compliance to health and safety standards. Self-inspection only gave the employers license to conceal their violations of occupational health and safety laws and placed the workers’ lives in more danger.

2) Increase the capacity of the Department of Labor to hire more labor inspectors to regularly check the compliance of all the establishments to labor standards. The current number of labor inspectors (600 inspectors assigned to 900,000 establishments) shows the lack of seriousness and genuine concern on the part of the government in the protection of workers’rights.

3) Certify as immediate House Bill 4635 or the Workers’ Safety and Health Inspection and Employers' Liability Decree or “Workers' SHIELD” filed by Gabriela Women’s Party representatives Emmi De Jesus and Luz Ilagan. This bill pushes for stiff punishments for companies that commit OHS violations with greater penalties to those that caused injuries or death to workers. It also requires the Department of Labor to carry out mandatory inspection of employers’ compliance with occupational health and safety standards.

4) Declare contractualization as illegal. Contractual workers who become victims of unsafe working conditions are caught in the unresolved web of who should be directly liable for their injury or death. Contractualization allows principal employers to evade direct responsibility in work-related accidents, illnesses, injuries and deaths.

“The government should not wait for another workplace tragedy to happen before it acts on these urgent measures. We demand for the government’s swift action because our workers’ health, safety and lives are at stake,”said De Leon.

IOHSAD also pledged to support House Bill 4635 or Worker’s SHIELD and amplify its efforts in protecting and defending the worker’s right to safer workplaces.##