MANILA - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is urging Congress to hasten the passage of bills criminalizing non-compliance of safety standards in the workplace amid the tragedy that has befallen 72 workers in a Valenzuela footwear factory last week.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said: “We urge our lawmakers to seriously see our plea for the enactment of these measures in a positive light, and that is, for the ultimate welfare and protection of our workers and the delivery of labor justice by punishing heartless employers.”
She cited three pending bills on occupational safety and health standards: H.B. No. 2226, or An Act Criminalizing Non-Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Standards; S.B. No. 1368, or An Act to Govern Occupational Safety and Health in the Construction Industry, which establishes OSH standards in the construction industry; and H.B. No. 2471, or An Act to Provide for Uniform Warnings on Personal Protective Equipment for Occupational Use.
“Our approach to modernize the Labor Code is to advocate for priority legislation. OSH is one of the priorities. I could not overemphasize its importance — and the timeliness of our plea to our lawmakers — in the light of accidents in our workplaces, some of which have injured and claimed the lives of our workers,” Baldoz said.
She is referring to the fire that gutted Kentex Manufacturing Inc.’s two-story building in Valenzuela last week, leaving at least 72 dead.
Baldoz said the body of standards, rules, and regulations, known as the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, does not yet contain criminal penalties. It was promulgated in 1978 and amended in 1989.
She said many provisions already need to be amended and updated due to changes in the working environment throughout the years, adding that these bills reflect the proposal by the Tripartite Labor Code Reform Committee to amend or revise the archaic Labor Code.
Baldoz set up the committee in 2011 through A.O. 375 to review documents from earlier initiatives, along with development plans, including the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan, 2011-2016.