Tolentino: Ensure workers’ safety

WITH millions of jobs to be generated as the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program goes into high gear, former Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs and administration senatorial candidate Francis “Tol” Tolentino on Tuesday stressed that government needed to strictly monitor occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) to ensure that Filipino workers will not be exposed to danger in the course of doing their jobs.

“The administration’s job-generation efforts must go hand-in-hand with initiatives to guarantee compliance with labor safety standards. The President last August signed a very good OSHS law; we now have to make sure that the law is properly implemented,” said the lawyer.

Tolentino was referring to Republic Act 11058, or “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof,” which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on August 17, 2018.

The law requires employers to provide complete safe work procedures and inform workers of hazards associated with their specific jobs. It also requires them to provide appropriate and personal protective equipment that have passed the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) required tests, and provide access to mandatory OSHS trainings as prescribed by the DOLE. Employers who violate the law may be fined P100,000 for each day of non-compliance with OSHS.

The former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair said that since the bulk of jobs that would be generated by the “Build, Build, Build” Program would be in the construction sector, DoLE would have to step up efforts to monitor working conditions to prevent work-related accidents.

“While more construction jobs are created, the chances that construction-related mishaps increase; the emphasis should be on ensuring compliance with safety standards so we prevent mishaps,” said Tolentino.

“Wag natin hintayin na magka-aberya. Let us be proactive and use the law to prevent work-related accidents, not just punish employers for refusing to follow the laws.”

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority reveals that the “Build, Build, Build” Program has already generated thousands of new jobs in the construction and manufacturing sector. The share of construction subsector showed an increase from 8.5% in October 2017 to 9.5% in October 2018, while the share of the manufacturing subsector showed an increase from 8.7% to 8.9% in the same period––equivalent to 328,000 new jobs in the construction subsector and 144,000 new jobs in the manufacturing subsector.

The DoLE said that projections show that an additional 3 million jobs in the construction sector will be generated until 2030, or an additional 250,000 additional construction workers per year.

According to Tolentino, “this is good news for the labor sector. But our responsibility to our workers does not end with getting them jobs––it includes providing them with a safe and healthy work environment.”