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“Tama na, sobra na, parusahan na!” Safety group pushes for the immediate passage of law criminalizing violations of worker’s health and safety standards

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photo from equipmentworld.com

The safety organization Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) intensifies its call to criminalize non-compliance of occupational health and safety (OHS) standards. The recent accidents in construction sites which claimed the lives of 13 people (Guiguinto warehouse, 11 dead; BGC condo, 2 dead) only show the urgent need to impose stricter and stiffer penalties to all employers who violated existing OHS laws.

“The absence of strict penalties for violators of health and safety standards only reflects the government’s lack of seriousness in protecting the lives of our workers. It indirectly sends a go-ahead signal to the employers to disregard workers’ safety,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD advocacy officer.

Last February 3, a day before the accident in Taguig, the House of Representatives Committee on Labor and Employment convened a technical working group (TWG) meeting to consolidate House bills concerning occupational health and safety. One of the issues discussed in the TWG meeting was the implementation of stricter penalties to employers who committed OHS violations.

IOHSAD gives its full support to HB 4635 or Workers Safety and Health Inspection and Employers Liability Decree (Worker’s SHIELD) filed by Rep. Emmi De Jesus and Rep Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party. Worker’s SHIELD’s main provision is the criminalization of OHS violations to push the companies’ strict compliance with health and safety laws. Employers who are proven guilty will not only pay penalties to the state but will be given appropriate criminal obligation based on the gravity of the violation.

The present Labor Code of the Philippines does not provide any clear provision that allows the prosecution of any employer who has violated safety regulations and caused the death of workers. In Australia, employers are considered to have committed a criminal act if a worker dies or is injured in the course of employment (Crimes Act, Australia). The employer who has been found guilty of this act will be given a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 20 years. This is in great contrast to our very weak laws which provide perfect conditions for employers to commit labor standard violations.

“We appeal to the Aquino government and our legislators to immediately pass a law that will criminalize violations of worker’s health and safety standards. Too many lives have been sacrificed, not only in the battlefields but also in workplaces, because of the government’s neglect and failure to protect the basic rights of our kababayans. Let us not wait for another accident to happen before we act,” added De Leon.

IOHSAD also urged the Department of Labor to immediately conduct mandatory inspection in all workplaces to check on the strict compliance of occupational health and safety standards. We also demand DOLE to immediately publish the results and findings of their inspections. ##