Baguio City – To ensure that companies, contractors, and subcontractors comply with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS), and that they are made liable, administratively and criminally, for their inaction and non-compliance in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces for all workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) adopted a three-pronged approach.

First, with the DOLE’s tripartite-supported Labor Laws Compliance System (LLCS) which is acombination of developmental and regulatory approaches to foster a culture of voluntarily compliance with labor laws, including safety and health standards.

Second, the DOLE strongly supports a pending legislative measure to strengthen compliance with occupational safety and health standards. Under the present rules and standards, an erring company may be imposed the following penalties for having violated the Labor Code of the Philippines and the Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

a. In cases of imminent danger, the DOLE Regional Director can issue work stoppage order; b. For unlawful act, there are penal sanctions for erring employers under Article 288 of the Labor Code of the Philippines: a) Fine of not less than P10,000.00, b) Imprisonment of not less than 3 months nor more than 3 years, or c) both fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

The proposed law seeks to strengthen occupational safety and health standards by imposing administrative and criminal penalties in the form of fine and imprisonment. It also makes any employer, contactor and subcontractor primarily and solidarity responsible for compliance of occupational safety and health standards. It further provides for compensation and employment insurance benefits, as well as payment of required penalties, to the State Insurance Fund.

Third, accident investigations are also being conducted and a result of said investigations, the DOLE may issue Work Stoppage Order (WSO). During work stoppages, employers are mandated to pay workers their wages as if they actually reported for work.

DOLE Department Order No. 183, Series of 2017 (DO 183), which revised the previous DOLE rules on the administration and enforcement of labor laws. Prior to the enactment of DO 183, DOLE implemented a developmental approach in the conduct of labor inspections. Under DO 183, the approach will now be regulatory, which means that the DOLE will be stricter in ensuring compliance with the labor laws.

With DO 183, DOLE is authorized to conduct surprise inspections and is no longer required to give employers written notice prior to an inspection. DOLE will no longer issue certificates of compliance to employers. Under previous DOLE rules, employers were issued a certificate of compliance that meant a presumption of compliance for a period of two (2) years.

DOLE Labor Inspectors are still required to present a written “Authority to Inspect” before conducting the inspection (i.e. examination of the employment records, interview of employees, and inspection of the premises). The three (3) modes of inspection are as follows: Routine Inspection (formerly, joint assessment); Complaint Inspection (formerly, compliance visit); and Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) Investigation.

Under DO 183, work stoppage orders (“WSOs”) are issued under the following circumstances: By the DOLE Regional Director if, during an OSHS investigation, it is determined that an imminent danger or a dangerous occurrence exists or when a disabling injury has occurred in the establishment subject of the investigation; and By the DOLE Secretary, who may issue industry-wide WSOs under exceptional circumstances.

Even in the absence of a WSO issued by the DOLE Regional Director, DO 183 requires employers to suspend work if the OSHS violation poses imminent danger to the life of the employees or can cause death or serious physical harm. During the period of work suspension, employers are required to pay the employees’ wages.

Prior to DO 183, anyone from the employer’s management and any of the employees may be appointed as employer and employee representatives, respectively, during the conduct of inspections or investigations.

Under DO 183, the employer’s representative must be anyone of the following: owner; president; vice president; manager; or any other officer holding a managerial position.

The employees’ representative, on the other hand, must be any of the following: the designated representative in the collective bargaining agreement; any rank-and-file employee present at the time of inspection from the Labor-Management Committee, Compliance Committee, Safety and Health Committee, or Family Welfare Committee; or If none of the employees referred to in (1) and (2) are present at the time of inspection, any employee present during the inspection may be the considered the employees’ representative.

The period of correction for any violation of the general labor standards is now reduced to ten (10) days.If a compliance order is issued directing the employer to regularize employees and this order is appealed to the Office of the Secretary of Labor, the employer cannot dismiss the employees directed to be regularized during the pendency of the appeal.

Any action plan to be submitted by the establishment must be prepared with the assistance of a Labor Inspector. If an action plan is submitted, the establishment must submit a status report on the action plan within five (5) days after the schedule of remediation of all violations. Failure to submit a status report shall cause the issuance of a compliance order.

The DOLE may at any time, and even if the establishment submits proof of compliance or correction of violations of labor laws, conduct follow-up inspections of the relevant establishment to confirm its compliance with or correction of any violations.

All establishments must keep employment records (such as the employees’ contracts, service agreements with contractors, and payroll) for at least three (3) years from their date of execution or issuance./Patrick T Rillorta