Lawmakers led by Davao City Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles of the National Unity Party (NUP) are pushing for the swift approval of an Occupational Safety Law with stringent provisions to help prevent industrial accidents such as the Kentex factory fire that recently killed 72 workers in Bulacan.
Nograles, who chairs the House committtee on labor and employment, said his panel has already finished a draft of an Occupational Safety and Health Standards Law that imposes stricter penalties and higher fines.
These penalties range from administrative fines of up to P100,000 but not more than P250,000 per day or imprisonment of not less than one (1) year and one (1) day but not more than six (6) years, or both.
If death is caused by, or results from, any of the provisions of the proposed OSH Law, the responsible person shall be punished with a fine of not less than P250,000 but not more than P500,000 or imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day but not more than twelve (12) years, or both, Nograles said.
He pointed out that under the existing rules promulgated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) a violation of occupational health and safety standards is penalized only with a work stoppage order covering just the area of accident for correction in case of death, injuries or imminent danger.
"The Labor Code, as amended, did not declare flagrant or wanton disregard of OSH standards unlawful with corresponding penalties. Thus, despite the approaches to ensure compliance with OSH standards, work-related accidents, injuries and illnesses and including fatalities continue to occur in various industries in the country," said Nograles, who is also the vice president of the NUP for internal affairs.
Under the proposed law prepared by the Nograles committee, employers, contractors and subcontractors are required to provide workers with hazard-free working areas and give them complete job safety instructions. Orientation and familiarization workshops are also required especially for first-time workers.
Nograles said workers must be briefed beforehand on the hazards associated with their work and the health risks involved, while ensuring that preventive measures to eliminate or minimize such risks are done.
The proposed statute also requires employers to provide workers with protective and safety devices such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and machine guards.
On their part, workers are required to comply with occupational health and safety standards in their workplace. They are also required to use all safeguards and safety devices furnished for their protection, and shall observe instructions to prevent accidents or imminent danger situation in the workplace, the proposed law states.