Workplace deaths rise: criminalize OSH standards violations now! 

July 19, 2022

Families of workplace accident victims, together with workplace safety group Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), joined Gabriela Partylist today in filing House Bill 2126 that seeks to amend the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Law to include criminalization of OSH standards violations.

IOHSAD said that imposing stiffer penalties and imprisonment on employers who commit gross OSH standards violations is crucial to preventing workplace accidents and workers’ deaths.

“We express our gratitude to Gabriela Partylist and the Makabayan bloc partylists for consistently supporting our advocacy of ensuring workers’ health and safety. We hope that other legislators join them in supporting our campaign for safer workplaces led by families of workers who die at work. We need the commitment of various groups to bringing justice to the victims’ families and preventing workplace accidents that claim workers’ lives and cause grief and loss to workers’ families,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD executive director.

Image from Gabriela Women’s Party FB page
Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Partylist) and Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan Partylist) filed HB 2126 at the House of Representatives that seek to amend RA 11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health Law to include criminalization of gross OSH standards violations.

“The consecutive workplace deaths during the past one and a half months are alarming. The government should decisively act now to put an end to workplace deaths. The recent recognition of OSH as a fundamental principle and right at work by the International Labor Organization highlighted government responsibility in ensuring safe and healthy working environments at all times,” De Leon added. 

IOHSAD claimed that the absence of stricter penalties and imprisonment for employers who commit gross violations of Republic Act 11058 or the OSH Law has been contributing to the hundreds of fatal accidents that occurred in workplaces in recent years. According to the Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment (ISLE) for 2019, there were 310 fatal cases of occupational accidents that resulted in workers’ deaths.

De Leon said that criminalizing OSH standards violations would help prevent workplace deaths. It would also send a strong message to employers that workers’ lives matter and putting them at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated.

Image credit: Gabriela Women’s Party

She cited past cases like the Kentex factory fire in 2015, where more than 72 workers died, but justice has remained elusive to the victims’ families even after seven years. She said negligent employers should be reminded that not prioritizing workers’ safety and causing workers’ deaths bear severe consequences.

“One death is too many. How many workers must die for the government to realize this? A single workplace death is unacceptable. Workers do not work to die. Businessmen should keep in mind that pursuing higher profits should never mean violations of workers’ rights and workers’ deaths,” said De Leon.

IOHSAD challenges the new administration to immediately act on workers’ demands to criminalize OSH standards violations. Its inaction will reflect the value it gives to workers’ lives and ensuring their health and safety in the workplace. ###