Shift work is classified as Class 2A carcinogen by the WHO
A reaction paper to the D.A. 04-10
The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (www.IOHSAD.org), a non-stock, non-profit, non-governmental health and safety organization is raising alarm bells on the recent advisory of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) allowing pregnant women to do night work.
Article 130 of the Labor Code prohibits women from doing night work
“ART. 130. Nightwork prohibition. - No woman, regardless of age, shall be employed or permitted or suffered to work, with or without compensation:(a) In any industrial undertaking or branch thereof between ten o’clock at night and six o’clock in the morning of the following day; or(b) In any commercial or non-industrial undertaking or branch thereof, other than agricultural, between midnight and six o’clock in the morning of the following day; or(c) In any agricultural undertaking at night time unless she is given a period of rest of not less than nine (9) consecutive hours.”
In the Department Advisory Number 4, Series of 2010 (D.A 04-10), Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz outlines the exemptions from the existing night work prohibitions stipulated in Article 130 of the Labor Code.
According to D.A 04-10 Letter B:
“Women employees may be allowed to work during night time in accordance with Article 131 of the Labor Code, subject to the limitation that the female employees not be below eighteen (18) years of age.
Employers are likewise required, among others, to provide safe and healthful working conditions, and adequate/reasonable facilities such as sleeping/resting quarters in the establishment.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers may be allowed to work at night only if a competent physician, other than the company physician, shall certify their fitness to render night work, and specify, in the case of pregnant employees, the period that they can safely work. ”
We are in disagreement with the D.A 04-10 for the following reasons:
1) Night work is carcinogenic and it puts workers at risk
Recent studies have shown how night work increases risks of getting breast cancer for women shift workers. According to the 2001 Rotating Night Shifts and Risk of Breast Cancer in Women Participating in the Nurses' Health Study, researchers documented elevated risk of breast cancer for nurses in the United States of America. The nurses involved in the studies worked for many years as shift workers.
Then in December 2007, after a 10 year research, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization placed shift work on Classification 2A or “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Class 2A is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.
Researchers are pointing to the the Light-At-Night theory (LAN). LAN states how night work disrupts the bodies production of melatonin, a known anti-oxidant capable of reducing the level of estrogen. High level of estrogen increases risks for getting breast cancer. This disruption in the circadian rhythm caused by LAN was proposed as potential cause of the increased risk.
For pregnant women, aside from the cancer risks, studies have shown that mothers who do night work had elevated risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight compared to those who do not engage in night work. In the 1989 Shift Work, Fetal development and course of pregnancy which studied women in Finland and the 2004 Shift work, duration of pregnancy, and birth weight which was done in Denmark, the two studies came up with the same conclusion that pregnant women who do night work have increased risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight.
2) Workplace inspection is weak
In January 7, 2004, then Secretary of Labor Patricia Sto. Tomas signed Department Order 57, series of 2004. D.O. 57-04 states:
“Section 1. The Labor Standards Enforcement Framework shall ensure compliance with labor standards through the following:
a. Self-assessment. This voluntary mode shall be encouraged in establishments with at least 200 workers. It shall also apply to unionized establishments with Certified Collective Bargaining Agreement regardless of the number of workers. Employers will be provided with a Checklist for this purpose. b. Inspection. This approach shall be undertaken in workplaces with 10 to 199 workers and effect restitutions/corrections if there are violations. c. Advisory services. This approach shall be undertaken in workplaces with less than 10 workers and those registered as Barangay Micro-Business Enterprises (BMBEs).”
The self-assessment provision under Section 1A makes workplace inspection superfluous. Before this D.O., the Bureau of Working Conditions annually inspected workplaces for their compliance to existing Health and Safety Standards, but due to the admitted lack of funds, the DoLE opted not to increase the number of inspectors but allow the said provision in the D.O.
Many Business Process Outsourcing companies have 200 or more employees, thus they are covered by the Section 1 A and needs to only submit a filled-up checklist on whether they adhere to existing health and safety standards. Since there exists no union in the BPO industry, there is no representation from the workers side during self-assessment. Also, no company, hr personnel or management in their right mind would implicate themselves in violating existing health and safety standards, making self-assessment on the adherence to safety standards an exercise in futility and an easy way out for erring companies.
3) Cancer due to shift work is not compensable disease
In the Philippines, Cancer due to shift work is not compensable. The collection of compensable diseases lists 30 types of disease, including 4 types of cancer:
1) Cancer of the epithelial lining of the bladder due to work involving exposure to alphanaphthylamine, beta-naphthylamin or benzidine or any part of the salts; and auramine or magenta.
2) Cancer, epithellomatous or ulceration of the skin or of the corneal surface of the eye due to tar, pitch, bitumen, mineral oil or paraffin, or any compound product or residue of any of these substances. The use of handling of, or exposure to tar; pitch, bitumen, mineral oil (including paraffin) soot or any compound product or residue of any of these substances
3) Cancer of stomach and other lymphatic and blood forming vessels; nasal cavity and sinuses among woodworkers, wood products industry carpenters, loggers and employees in pulp and paper mills and plywood mills
4) Cancer of the lungs, liver and brain among vinyl chloride workers, plastic workers.
Since shift work effects on the body has a long latency period, many workers would not immediately suffer from the negative effects of this type of work arrangement. Some may already be retired when they get the disease, making the link between their current health condition and the nature of their work difficult. But the many studies and the recent classification of WHO of shift work as Class 2A carcinogen should push the government and the DoLE to immediately add cancer due to shift work as compensable disease.
In Denmark, after the 2007 report by the IARC, the government have started compensating women workersvi who have developed breast cancers due to night work.
We hope the Department of Labor and Employment will consider the points raised in this paper.