After Two Successive Workplace Deaths, Labor Group Calls for Justice, Urge Gov’t To Pass Law Punishing Negligent Employers  

February 5, 2015

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights called for justice for the death of 12 workers in two successive workplace accidents just a few weeks into 2015.

“Justice must be served to the victims of yet another tragic accident that claimed the lives of workers because of negligence to occupational health and safety standards of employers,” said Arman Hernando, CTUHR documentation head.

On Feb 4, two construction workers died and 11 others were injured when a portion of a building under construction in Bonfacio Global City in Taguig City collapsed. About two weeks ago, on Jan 19, 10 workers, including a minor, died after a wall in another construction site in Bulacan also collapsed.

In 2014, CTUHR documented at least three cases of workplace accidents that killed 11 workers.

The group then urged the government to immediately pass a law that will penalize employers who do not comply with occupational health and safety (OHS) standards

“We just cannot wait for another worker to die in another workplace accident because companies can easily get away with it.  Existing regulations on employers’ compliance to OHS standards must be tightened,” Hernando, said.

The group expressed support to House Bill 4635 also known as Worker’s Safety and Health Inspection and Employers’ Liability Decree (Workers SHIELD) sponsored by Congresswomen Emmi de Jesus and Luzviminda Iligan of Gabriela Partylist.  The bill aims to penalize both principal employers and subcontractors for workplace accidents resulting from neglect of OHS standards.

“Non-compliance to worker safety standards should be considered a crime against workers. Employers must not only pay administrative fines and sanctions, they must also face criminal liabilities for any death or injury caused by their violation to OHS standards,” Hernando said.

CTUHR added that workplace accidents are not only a result of neglect or complacency in companies implementing safety standards but are primarily because companies cut costs to increase profit.

“Implementing OHS standards entail costs to companies as workers need to be provided with personal protective equipments and be given enough hours of rest or break-time. The workplace should also have proper safety installations which can be costly.  However, because of companies’ drive to further lower costs their costs in labor and added facilities, workers safety is often compromised and neglected.

“For instance, principal developers in the case of construction firms employ several layers of subcontracting agencies to evade direct employer responsibility to workers. At the same time, these subcontractors squeeze more profit from contract workers who are made to work for long hours with only minimum safety protection, if any.” Hernando explained.

HB 4635 also imposes mandatory inspection on OHS compliance of all establishments regardless of place and number of workers. The bill seeks to disallow any form of voluntary compliance or employer-discretion based adherence to OHS standards.

The group said that the twin DOLE Department Orders 115-A and 57-04 which allow companies with 200 or more workers to self-assess their compliance to OHS standards is one reason why companies can easily ignore safety procedures and guidelines in workplaces resulting in accidents of workers at the same time relieves the government of its responsibility to ensure and protect workers safety in the workplace.

“These orders are being used by the government as scapegoats to avoid its responsibility in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for all workers. The DOLE should be given a clear directive that it must not lay down its mandate to ensure employees protection in exchange of industrial harmony and unimpeded business undertaking,” Hernando added.###