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Safety NGO calls for comprehensive probe on Butuan killer fire

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A safety NGO on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to conduct a comprehnsive probe on a fire which killed 18 workers and injured 2 more. The fire started around 3 in the morning, May 9, 2012 at the Novo Jeans and Shirts department store along Montilla Boulevard, Butuan City. According to news report, there were a total of 22 stay-in female workers when the fire broke-out.

“The regional office of the DoLE must investigate the death of the workers and why they were trapped inside the burning building and prosecute those responsible for the neglect of the workers safety,” said Noel Colina, Executive Director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (www.IOHSAD.org). “Rule 1943.03 of the Philippine Occupational Health and Standards (OHSS) outlines the need to have 'at least of 2 exits every floor and basement capable of clearing the work area in five (5) minutes'. There must also be a safety plan in case of fire which the workers should made familiar with.”

“Workplaces remain to be the top killer of workers, with 2.2 M dying annualy across the globe based on the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates. The DoLE Department Order 57-04, allowing workplaces with 200 or more workers to conduct self-assessment on adherence to labor standards have failed to protect workers,” said Colina.

Colina reiterated the need to improve and add strong penal provision to the existing OHSS. “We should also legislate Industrial Manslaughter to prosecute employers who neglect their duty to protect the health and safety of their workers.”