Enough is enough! Criminalize violations of safety and health standards

July 10, 2022

Workplace safety NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) urged the government to immediately and decisively act on the alarming number of workplace accidents that has claimed workers’ lives. It also urged Congress to amend RA 11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health Law and include the criminalization of OSH standards violations.

IOHSAD raised concerns over the consecutive workplace accidents that occurred in the previous weeks. Three workers died when the second floor of the building being rented by E-ONE Consumers Trading Corporation, a warehouse firm located in an industrial park in Meycauyan, Bulacan, collapsed on May 31. A few days later, Stephen Corilla, a contractual worker of Universal Robina Corporation in Mandaue City, Cebu, died while cleaning a pulverizing machine. Two maintenance crew died while fixing the elevator of a corporate building in Makati City on July 8.

“Workplace deaths should stop. No worker should die at work. The government’s inaction on workers’ demand to impose stiffer penalties and imprisonment for employers who commit gross OSH standards violations has resulted in workers’ deaths. The weak and toothless provisions in the current OSH Law were made even worse by the lack of labor inspectors to conduct regular OSH inspections in all workplaces,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD executive director.

“Enough is enough. Workers’ lives matter. Ensuring their safety from workplace accidents should be the government’s responsibility. They should be protected from companies that blatantly violate and continuously disregard health and safety standards. Pursuing higher profits should not never mean violations of workers’ rights and workers’ deaths,” she added.

IOHSAD said that even with the passage of the OSH Law in 2018, compliance with OSH standards dropped to 58.36% from 74.72% and continues to be subpar at 70.28%. The long-standing problem of lack of labor inspection, especially of OSH, remains unaddressed. The annual evaluation of more than one million business establishments in the country is shouldered by only 774 labor inspectors. It comes as no surprise that less than 10% have been examined in the past three years.

Persistent violations remain unnoticed and unpunished by the authorities. The lack of first aiders, safety officers, and fire inspection clearances maintain their top spots in the list of OSH standards violations since 2019.

De Leon said that the government should urgently act on these two demands:
(1) Amend the Occupational Safety and Health Law to include stricter penalties for non-compliance with OSH standards. Companies that commit gross OSH standards violations should be held criminally accountable.
(2) Conduct regular OSH inspections in workplaces. Hire more labor inspectors.

IOHSAD challenges the new administration to immediately act on workers’ demands to criminalize OSH standards violations and intensify OSH inspections in workplaces. The government should remember that its inaction and neglect endanger workers’ lives every day. Its close relations with the biggest businessmen in the country should not mean letting rights violations and workers’ deaths go unpunished. ###