Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to shape up in enforcing occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) following the deadly fire at Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel & Casino in Ermita, Manila on Sunday.
“We call on the DOLE to step up its enforcement of OSH standards. Lapses has been too many and frequent to be ignored. How many more deaths from workplace accidents do we have to endure?” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development.
The tragedy left 5 people dead. The fatalities were all casino workers, one employee is still fighting for her life in a hospital while about 20 people were injured.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to the families, friends, and relatives of the employees affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you in this difficult time,” Villanueva said.
Accounts from individuals, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), 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 our occupational safety and health standards,” Villanueva stressed.
Villanueva further urged the gov’t for the immediate prioritization of 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 Labor Code which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.
“Currently, the government only gives a slap on the wrist against erring establishments and we cannot just tolerate that kind of regulation at the expense of our workers,” said Villanueva, author and sponsor of the bill.
The bill was approved on third and final reading last Feb. 19, 2018 and has been sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
For the longest time, violation of occupational health and safety standards has no fines or penalties. The 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.
Under the proposed measure, an amount of P100,000.00 will serve as an administrative penalty for the erring employer for every day of non-correction of violation.
“What we want to address is prevention. If establishments would be strictly mandated to comply with occupational safety and health standards, incidents like this can be prevented,” Villanueva said.
"We hope that our OSHS bill would be immediately signed into law--a law that would finally give teeth to our 41-year Labor Code and would thus force establishments to comply to occupational safety and health standards,” the senator stressed.