A bicameral conference committee (bicam) on Monday has approved a bill strengthening compliance with occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) that seeks to amend the 41-year old Labor Code of the Philippines which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.
Senator Joel Villanueva, author of the measure and chairperson of the committee on labor in the Senate, said that there is an urgent need to protect our workers from hazards in the workplace that could be prevented if only the government has clear and effective policies on occupational safety and health standards.
During the bicameral meeting, the House contingent agreed to adopt the Senate’s version of the measure that would impose an administrative fine of P100,000 per day of non-correction of OSH standards violation, counted from the date the employer or contractor is notified of the violation or the date the compliance order is duly served on the employer.
The amount of fine imposed shall depend on the frequency or gravity of the violation committed or the damage caused, provided, however, that the maximum amount shall be imposed only when the violation exposes the workers to a risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.
For the longest time, violation of OSH 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.
Villanueva said he hopes the bill will be ratified by both chambers before the last day of session on May 30. A clean copy of the bill will then be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.
"We are elated that after three Congresses, this bill is now closer to becoming a law," Villanueva said.
"We sincerely thank our colleagues for supporting this personal crusade which we have been strongly pushing to give due justice to our workers and to assure a level playing field to establishments who comply to the OSH standards," the senator stressed.
"Kahapon, may gumuhong concrete beam sa ginagawang flyover sa Imus. Noong isang araw, apat na manggagawa ng subcontractor ng Hanjin ang nalaglag sa scaffolding sa Subic na ikinamatay ng isang trabahador. This bill, once enacted into law, would finally give teeth to our 41-year Labor Code and would thus force establishments to comply to occupational safety and health standards,” Villanueva said.