Senators on Tuesday night finished the period of interpellation on Senate Bill No. 1317 or “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof” that seeks to amend the 41-year old Labor Code of the Philippines which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.
"We are elated that after almost a year of pushing for the passage of the OSHS bill, we have finally closed the period of interpellation. We hope to pass the measure on third and final reading before the last day of session on March 23," said Sen. Joel Villanueva, author and sponsor of the bill.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, presented the bill to the plenary nearly a year ago on May 22, 2017.
Villanueva repeatedly called for the immediate passage of the bill following a series of workplace accidents -- the latest was the fire mishap at the NCCC Mall in Davao last December 2017.
The tragedy left 38 fatalities, one of them worked as a safety officer of the mall and 37 are all employees of Research Now SSI, a Texas-based call center company which rented the whole fourth floor of the mall.
For the longest time, violation of occupational health and safety standards has no fines or penalties. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) only issues a Work Stoppage Order (WSO) if there is an imminent danger or would result to disabling injury.
“Obviously, this practice has not been successful in inculcating culture of OSH compliance nor in addressing wanton disregard of OSH standards,” Villanueva said.
Based on the record of the Bureau of Working Conditions under DOLE, 52 fatal and 54 non-fatal workplace accidents were reported in 2014. The number increased to 125 fatal and 69 non-fatal reported workplace accidents in 2015. Meanwhile, as of October 2016, the bureau recorded a number of 22 fatal and 18 non-fatal workplace accidents.
Under the proposed measure, up to an amount of P100,000.00 will serve as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for every day of non-correction of violation.
“It is high time that we put high premium on compliance with OSH standards. Losing so many precious lives as proven by the recent fire tragedy in Davao in the name of ease of doing business is unacceptable. We hope that another similar incident in the future would soon be prevented by enacting a stricter law that ensures the safety and well-being of our workers, and promotes their right to safe workplaces,” Villanueva concluded.