DOLE asked to ensure safety of R4-A workers

SENATOR Joel Villanueva has called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to issue an advisory on work in the areas of Region 4-A, especially in Batangas, to ensure the health and safety of workers as a result of Taal Volcano’s eruption.

The Senator also encouraged employers and their designated safety officers to assess whether there is imminent danger in their workplace and prioritize to safeguard the health and safety of their workers.

“Given the heightened concerns of workers in Batangas, parts of Laguna and Cavite, as well as nearby areas including Metro Manila, the DOLE must help ease the tension by issuing a relevant labor advisory which can guide the private sector in deciding whether to run their operations or offices in the light of Taal’s eruptions,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Employers and company-designated safety officers should  determine on their own whether it is safe for their workers to report today in their workplace. Safety officers are empowered to issue a work-stoppage order in their workplaces without threat or reprisal from employers as enshrined in the law and implementing rules,” continued the senator, chair of the Senate labor committee.

Villanueva, principal author and sponsor of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) Act, however, clarified that the workers right to refuse to work on account of imminent danger must be supported by a finding from the Department of Labor and Employment that an imminent danger to their health and safety exists hence the need for a DOLE Advisory.

Section 6 of the OSHS law, or Republic Act No. 11058, states: “The worker has the right of refusal to work without threat or reprisal from the employer if, as determined by the DOLE, an imminent danger situation exists in the workplace that may result to illness, injury or death, and corrective actions to eliminate the danger have not been undertaken by the employer.”

The law’s implementing rules and regulations extend the similar protection against employers’ threat or reprisal to safety officers who issue work stoppage orders, he added.

If workers are exposed outdoors, they should be provided with adequate personal protective equipment, which includes appropriate dust masks, Villanueva pointed out.

Villanueva urged the DOLE to immediately release the advisory because of potential health hazards for workers who are exposed outdoors.