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Independent fact-finding team delivers report on the Keppel incident

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“The information gathered by the team suggested unsafe working conditions and other labor and safety violations by Keppel Subic Shipyard Inc. (KSSI).”

This statement was made today by Noel Colina, Executive Director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (www.IOHSAD.org) during a press conference at the Tree House Restaurant in Quezon City which detailed the information gathered by an independent fact-finding team representing various labor groups. The team visited the families and victims of the recent accident in Keppel Shipyard in Subic Bay, Philippines and gather first hand information on the incident which took the lives of 6 workers with 7 more suffering injuries last Friday, October 7, 2011. IOHSAD is a non-profit, non-governmental health and safety organization based in Manila.

Keppel workers Ronald Lara, Hull Rigger ,Glenn Miranda, 33 years old, Hull Rigger, Cris Xander Papna, 22 years old, Shipwelder, Jhay Lord Reyes, 22 years old, Shipfitter and Mark San Juan, Hull Rigger were declared dead on arrival, while Ronaldo Bagay, 29 years old, Hull Rigger, expired at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital after sustaining multiple injuries to the face and body. Injured were Berlindo Asinas, 23 years old, Shipfitter, Eleazar Elopre Jr., 27 years old, Shipfitter, Wendy May Balaba, 23 years old, Belmore Dela Vega, Albert Recana, Diosdado Motea and Alvin Penaverde.

According to the incident report submitted by Wilson B. Gaspar, HSE Manager of KSSI, the stern ramp of the ship M/V Tombarra fell after its tower support toppled and the stern wire rope broke unable to hold the ramp from falling. “Workers of Keppel who were interviewed verified that only a single tower was available to support the 200-ton ramp. This was highly irregular as they usual procedure was to have at least 4 support towers,” said Noel Colina. “Workers also said that the lone tower support was missing a 10-ton weight support used to hold down the tower. Because of its instability, the tower support toppled and without the support tower, the cables attached from the ship hull to the ramp were not able to hold the sheer weight of the ramp. The tower and the ramp crushed the workers below.”

Colina went on to quote the report of Mr. Gaspar. “According to the the HSE Manager, 'HSE is recommending fabrication of 2 or more rigid and more sturdy tower supports to avoid recurrence of the same incident'. This recommendation by Mr. Gaspar verifies the unsafe working conditions inside the KSSI. Shipyard work is already hazardous but was made fatal by allowing a single tower to support the ramp.”

Safety and labor rights violations

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which by law should be provided free by the management, were charged to the salaries of the workers. Many of the victims were receiving wages of PhP 250/day when the minimum in Region 3 is PhP 315/day,” stated Colina.

Keppel deploys high-level investigating team

“The team is composed of senior managers representing the interest of the company. This alone casts a shadow of doubt on whether they will be objective enough to point out their own failures in safety which could possibly place Keppel in bad light,” said Colina.

“KSSI management were non-cooperative with the police and the local government unit investigating the incident. They inked a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the hospital to block any effort from media and other concerned groups to talk to the victims and their families. This are maneuvers clearly not favoring the unveiling of the truth behind the deaths of the 6 workers,” opined Colina.

“We are also wondering how the inspection team deployed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) be able to comprehensively perform a safety audit when only the accident site is closed down. The whole shipyard must inspected, assessed for possible dangers, which will be the basis for appropriate hazard and risk mitigation procedures the company needs to adopt,” continued Colina.

Revoke DoLE D.0. 57-04

IOHSAD reiterated their call for the revocation of the D.O. 57-04. “Self-assessment is not working. Erring companies will cut corners in terms of safety to save money and we cannot allow the safety of workers to rest on them. Government through the DoLE and the Bureau of Working Conditions should start regularly and mandatory inspections of all workplaces, with special attention to hazardous sites like construction and shipyards,” stated Colina.

Colina also noted the different procedures of the government with regards to the Eton Residences tragedy and what is transpiring now in Keppel. “In Eton Residences, there was a complete shutdown and immediately after, Mayor Junjun Binay ordered the inspection of 32 more construction sites in Makati. But in the case of Keppel no shutdown happened, except for the accident site while the Mayor of Subic is not even allowed to go inside. There is also no comprehensive inspection of other shipyard, including Hanjin shipyard, like what happened in Makati.”