by Angel Grace D. Untalan, APRIL 2021
Occupational Safety and Health (“OSH”) standards refer to a set of rules issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (“DOLE”) which mandates the adoption and use of appropriate practices, means, methods, operations, processes, and working conditions reasonably necessary to ensure safe and healthful employment.
In the Philippines, establishments with violations on labor and OSH standards reached a gradual decline from 2016-2017, as shown in the figure below:
By 2017, the inadequacy of the first aider was the most prevalent violation of OSH standards in the country (19.3%). Non-registration of establishments trailed at 18.6%, followed by non-keeping of medical records (15.9%), non-submission of the accident report (14.2%), non-submission of the annual medical report (13.8%), and the non-establishment of safety committee (11.0%).
During this time, provisions on OSH are mainly provided by the Labor Code of the Philippines (“Labor Code”) and the Occupational Safety and Health Standards of 1978.
The gap in the then 41-year-old Labor Code, as amended, prompted legislators to develop the law to address the lack of administrative and criminal penalties for non-compliance of OSH standards by providing for non-compliance thereof.
Thus, on August 17, 2018, the Philippines enacted Republic Act No. 11058, or the Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof (“the Act”).
Guaranteed under the Act are the following rights of workers, to wit:
- Worker’s right to know (Sec. 5)
All workers shall be appropriately informed by the employer about all types of hazards in the workplace, provided access to training and education on chemical safety, and to an orientation on the datasheet of chemical, electrical, mechanical, and ergonomic safety.
- Worker’s right to refuse unsafe work (Sec. 6)
Should an imminent danger arise that may result in illness, injury, or death, the worker has the right of refusal to work without threat or reprisal from the employer.
- Worker’s right to report accidents (Sec. 7)
Workers and their representatives shall have the right to report accidents, dangerous occurrences, and hazards to the employer, or the DOLE, or other concerned government agencies exercising jurisdiction as a competent authority in the specific industry (e.g., DPWH, TRB).
- Worker’s right to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (Sec. 8)
There shall be sufficient and adequate provision of PPE to workers, free of charge, to prevent the cause of injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body.
Under this law, employers are mandated to prepare and execute an OSH program in consultation with the workers and their representatives which, shall be submitted to the DOLE for approval or modification according to existing laws. Workers, on the other hand, shall undergo a mandatory eight-hour safety and health seminar as required by the DOLE and prescribed under Sec. 16(b) of the Act.
In work stoppage due to imminent danger, the employer shall pay the workers concerned their wages during the period of stoppage of work or suspension of operations. A worker may also file claims for compensation benefit arising out of work-related disability or death. Such claims shall be processed independently of the finding of fault, gross negligence, or bad faith of the employer in a proceeding instituted for the purpose.
To ensure humane working conditions in the workplace, the Act also expressed the need to establish several worker’s welfare facilities such as:
- Adequate supply of safe drinking water;
- Adequate sanitary and washing facilities;
- Suitable living accommodation for workers, as may be applicable;
- Separate sanitary, washing and sleeping facilities for men and women workers;
- Lactation station except those establishments with no pregnant or lactating employee; and
- Development of ramps and railings.
To strengthen the motivation of employers, Sec. 27 of the law provides that there shall be an established package of incentives to recognize their efforts in ensuring compliance with OSH and general labor standards.
However, willful failure to comply with the OSH standards, or with a compliance order issued by the Secretary of DOLE shall make the employer liable for an administrative fine not exceeding One Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 100,000.00) per day until the violation is corrected, counted from the day of notification. Engagement in acts of concealment or facilitating non-compliance shall also make employers liable for a maximum of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (PHP 100,000.00) administrative fine, separate from the daily fine as previously stated. /o:p>
About the writer:
Angel Grace D. Untalan. A Legal Management graduate with an inclination to pursue the field of higher arts. She is moderately comfortable with social interaction, but can also relish her time off from the crowd. Her works are influenced by distinguished screenwriters such as Gene Roddenberry, George R.R. Martin, and Quentin Tarantino. She aspires to become a law practitioner at The Hague, who has published papers in a Scopus-indexed journal at some point in the future.