Workers Must Be Occupational Safety Watchdogs - DOLE

Manila Bulletin, May 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

Workers Must Be Occupational Safety Watchdogs - DOLE


The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) admitted yesterday that it does not have the personnel to monitor most safety and health violations by employers and urged workers to help report such violations.

The DOLE made the appeal following the death of at least 70 workers in a fire last Wednesday after they were trapped inside a building that had limited fire exits.

At the same time, the government is also stepping up the inspection of buildings, schools, and student dormitories to ensure that safety regulations are complied with.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also said that the government will push for stronger laws promoting occupational safety regulations as well as imposing stiffer fines against building owners who violate fire safety standards.

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz admitted her office could not inspect thousands of establishments nationwide due to a limited number of labor inspectors.

She urged workers to assist DOLE to address this inspection gap by reporting violations committed by their employers.

"The DOLE could not be present at the plant level 24/7, but worker representatives especially those sitting in the safety committee could. They should be vigilant, especially with employers short-changing their workers at the risk of their lives," Baldoz said.

"We reiterate the strong stand taken by the government through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on the need to criminalize non-compliance with laws and regulations pertaining to occupational safety and health," Coloma said over government radio.

"This has become imperative in the light of the disastrous fire in a factory in Valenzuela City that claimed the lives of at least 72 workers last Wednesday. According to Secretary Baldoz, there is need to put more teeth to existing regulations that were promulgated in 1978 and contain no criminal penalties," he added.

Coloma said they hope lawmakers would consider the approval of measures "for the ultimate welfare and protection of our workers, and the delivery of labor justice by punishing heartless employers."

DOLE currently has only around 574 labor inspectors to ensure at least 780,000 establishments nationwide are following basic labor regulations and OSH under its Labor Law Compliance System (LLCS) , which is conducted once a year.

Some labor groups, however, questioned the effectivity of this regulation in reducing workplace accidents, when the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City was razed last Wedenesday.

Initial findings of authorities on the incident revealed Kentex may have violated OSH rules and practiced illegal subcontracting of workers despite passing the LLCS.

Baldoz earlier defended the credibility of the LLCS saying the labor and OSH violation happened after the Kentex factory has been inspected by DOLE on 3 March, 2014.

Last Thursday, a militant labor group, Partido Manggagawa, advised DOLE to deputize workers as labor inspectors to help DOLE conduct real-time assessment of companies to prevent them from circumventing government regulations even after passing the LLCS. …

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