Senator Joel Villanueva has reminded employers to prioritize the safety and welfare of their employees after reports circulated that some workers in Metro Manila did not leave their posts as the 6.1-magnitude earthquake jolted the capital and nearby provinces on Monday.
“The law is clear. The right of workers to safety and health at work is guaranteed,” said Villanueva, citing a section in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) law which he authored and shepherded as chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development.
“We can’t simply expect our employees to march back to their workstations or to the shop floor without management and safety experts conducting a walkthrough of the facility to assess its structural integrity,” the senator continued in a statement. “Sadly, we learned that some offices did just that. We should remind them that the welfare of workers is always of paramount concern. Places of work are the second home of our workers.”
Monday’s 6.1-magnitude earthquake shook Metro Manila past 5:00 p.m. just as most offices were winding down their work day.
He commented on the issue after receiving reports of some workers in apparently distressed situations after the quake. One report claimed that workers at malls were being ordered to stay put in their posts instead of evacuating along with customers to exit the building.
He also cited another incident in Mandaluyong which he witnessed personally on Monday afternoon. He heard a building marshal ordering office workers who evacuated an office building along Shaw Boulevard to go back inside the building some 30 minutes after the quake.
"The building was over 20 stories high. It's quite unlikely they've inspected the structure thoroughly," he said.
Villanueva hoped that the reports, which also made the rounds on social media, are isolated because “if not, that should be looked into by the labor department.”
“At the very least, the response of marshals in these incidents show that much needs to be done in disaster preparedness. We need to heighten our awareness in what to do when disasters strike, and that includes exerting a lot of effort in protecting the welfare of our workers.”
Republic Act No. 11058 or the OSH law mandates employers to care for the safety and well-being of its employees by instituting measures to prevent accidents and increase awareness on possible hazards of the job.
The law, which was enacted in August last year, provides stiff penalties to employers who may be fined up to P100,000 daily unless they correct all OSH violations stated in a notice duly served by inspectors of the labor department.
The measure further authorizes the labor department officials and representatives to enter workplaces at any time of the day or night where work is being performed to examine records and investigate facts, conditions, or matters necessary to determine compliance with the provisions of the OSH law.
The OSH law covers all establishments, projects, sites, and workplaces in all branches of economic activity, but subject to the appropriate standards based on number of employees, nature of operations, and the risk or hazard involved, as determined by the labor department.