By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Joel Villanueva told the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to shape up in enforcing workplace safety and health standards.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, reiterated his call for the strict implementation of the occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) Wednesday following the deadly fire at Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel & Casino in Ermita, Manila last Sunday, which left six casino workers dead and 20 others hurt.
“We call on the DOLE to step up its enforcement of OSH standards. Lapses have been too many and too frequent to be ignored. How many more deaths from workplace accidents do we have to endure?” Villanueva said in statement.
Villanueva noted the reports from Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) that the sprinklers and alarm system of the 50-year-old hotel did not work during the incident.
“These testimonies substantiate the lack of compliance of the hotel on our occupational safety and health standards,” he said.
In his appeal, the labor committee chairman urged the government to prioritize the passage of the measure which seeks to amend the Labor Code which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.
Senate Bill No. 1317 or “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof,” which Villanueva sponsored, was approved on third and final reading last February. Villanueva said it has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Villanueva lamented that the DOLE, under the current Labor Code, only issues a Work Stoppage Order (WSO) if a company is found to have violated OSHS. Aside from the order, there are no penalties or fines imposed on erring employers.
“Obviously, this practice has not been successful in inculcating the culture of OSH compliance nor in addressing wanton disregard of OSH standards,” Villanueva said.
“We cannot just tolerate that kind of regulation at the expense of our workers,” he added.
Under the proposed measure, an amount of P100,000 will serve as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for every day of non-correction of violation.
Villanueva, meanwhile, sympathized with families of those who died in the Manila Pavilion fire.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to the families, friends, and relatives of the employees affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time,” Villanueva said.