Baguio City – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will intensify its efforts in enforcing Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) following series of fire incidents and work related accidents which has caused the lost of life, limb and property in various areas in the country.

Following the deadly fire at the Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel & Casino in Ermita, Manila.The fire, which happened last Sunday, left five casino workers dead and about 21 people were injured, with one critically. In the Cordilleras, three fires were recorded last week in Baguio City and Benguet. The Baguio City fire razed an eatery and a print shop last Monday evening along Post Office Loop and may have been caused by a leaked LPG from the eatery and eventually broke out to the nearby print shop while the Camp 6 and Camp 4, Tuba, Benguet fires were caused from a kaingin which affected 10 to 12 hectares.

Citing reports from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Pavilion Hotel fire basing on the accounts from survivors point to violations on safety standards, as some survivors lamented that the sprinklers and alarm system of the 50-year-old hotel did not work. These testimonies substantiate the lack of compliance of the hotel on occupational safety and health standards which is also a problem.

Recently, to further ensure compliance of establishments to OSH standards, Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development urged for the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. 1317 or ‘An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof. The bill seeks to amend the Labor Code which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.

The proposed measure was approved on third and final reading last February 19, 2018 and has been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence. Under the bill, an amount of PHP100,000.00 will serve as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for every day of non-correction of violation. At present, the DOLE only issues a Work Stoppage Order (WSO). The primary reason why DOLE issues a work stoppage order is the presence of imminent danger observed at the site upon the conduct of the compliance visit.

In Baguio City, many establishments inspected by the Department of Labor and Employment – CAR violated the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS). The topmost violation committed against OSHS is the absence of first aid equipment and a two or more safety personnel. It is then followed by non-compliance of administrative reports on health and safety, and absence of personal protective equipment (PPE) and fire protection equipment or facilities. Others, however, lacked establishment registration documents.

DOLE-CAR OIC Regional Director Exequiel Ronie A. Guzman has ordered the DOLE CAR Field Offices and Labor Inspectors to step up enforcement of OSH standards and also to intensify awareness on workers’ safety and health in private institutions, companies and establishments especially in the construction industry or in hazardous occupations to ensure the safety and health of their workers.

Labor inspectors are empowered to visit any place where work is undertaken, including those in the informal economy, for safety and health inspection, but regarding the inspection of working conditions some workplaces fall outside their coverage. The Labor Standards Enforcement Framework (LSEF) covers general labor standards, including occupational safety and health, and technical safety standards.

Labor inspectors are responsible for overseeing general labor standards including wages and hours of work, other welfare and social security benefits and general safety and health, which refer to the work environment such as lighting, ventilation and other conditions. They also include compliance with the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law and policies and programmes for HIV/AIDS prevention and drug-free workplaces and child labor. DOLE Labor Inspectors are not involved in the resolution and settlement of labor disputes, however, they have an important role to play in dispute prevention over existing rights. DOLE Technical Inspectors undertake inspection of mechanical and electrical installations.

Inspection visits are of two types, namely, general inspection and technical inspection. General inspection is of an integrated nature where the one inspector checks on working conditions as well as basic safety and health matters. Technical inspection concentrates particularly on electrical and mechanical installations. In the vast majority of cases, technical and general inspectors undertake inspection visits separately from each other. In special circumstances, however, they may undertake joint inspections.

There are five different types of general inspection visits including the following: (1) routine or regular inspections (visits to establishments that are scheduled as part of a programme of yearly inspection visits); (2) Complaint/referral inspection (conducted in response to a notice filed by an employee concerning a hazard or labour law violation, or referred by the media or any other source); (3) Imminent danger investigations (conducted based on any condition or practice in any workplace where a specific danger could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm, and where enforcement of standards can eliminate the danger; (4) Accident investigations (conducted in the event of work related accidents resulting in injury or death), and (5) Spot-checks (inspections recommended by a Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Team related to the self-assessment scheme and inspection of establishments employing fewer than 10 employees and registered Barangay Micro Business Enterprises (BMBE’s) to verify commitments related to the Training and Advisory Visits (TAVs) under the LSEF).

For more information on labor inspections and the Labor laws Compliance Systemvisit www.dole.gov.ph or www.bwc.dole.gov.ph /Patrick T Rillorta