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Death of four workers inside Ali Mall: Who allowed them to work without safety devices?

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Working in confined spaces is indeed dangerous work as confirmed by the death of four workers cleaning a grease trap located inside the Ali Mall in Cubao, Quezon City.

Romy Suarez, 50 years old, along with his two sons Rommel and Rodel and their neighbor and co-worker Marvin Aleman died the morning of August 30, 2012. Rescuers recovered their bodies inside the grease trap of the mall. The workers all belong to the RCBC Plumbing Services, the company hired by Ali Mall to do the cleaning.

According to reports from the police and the media, safety devices were not present at the work site. “If indeed true, we are very bothered the management of Ali Mall allowed the workers to conduct their operation without proper safety devices,” said Noel Colina, Executive Director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (www.IOHSAD.org), a non-governmental health and safety organization based in Manila.

“Rule 1121 of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) of the Philippines identifies working in underground tanks and confined spaces as hazardous work and provides standard operating procedures before any work should be done,” said Colina.

Rule 1121 OSHS:
First, “the area shall be checked visually to ensure that the water level is below 15 cm. (6 in.) and if water is present, a dry wooden platform shall be available for use.”

Second, “approved types of breathing apparatus and other personal protective equipment shall be provided and made available for use by the worker or workers entering a confined space.”

And third, “no worker or group of workers shall enter a confined space unless a watcher is available who is familiar with the job and in contact with the men at regular intervals and equally provided with breathing apparatus for ready use in case of emergency.”

“We are calling for the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and all other relevant agencies to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident. The investigation must ascertain who among the management of Ali Mall allowed the workers to enter the work premises without the proper work attire and safety gear,” stressed Colina.