House bill criminalizing occupational safety and health violations filed

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A BILL criminalizing occupational safety and health (OSH) violations was filed at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, which will amend the existing OSH law with stricter penalties and imprisonment for non-compliant employers.

“Even with the enactment of the OSH Law, employers continue to neglect workers’ health and safety which often lead to injuries and death,” Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said in a statement on Tuesday.

“That is why we need to introduce stiffer penalties and imprisonment in the law.”

“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,” Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) Executive Director Nadia de Leon said in a separate statement.

According to the Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment in 2019, there were 310 fatal cases of occupational accidents that year.

“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,” Ms. De Leon said.

The IOHSAD joined the Gabriela Party-list as it filed House Bill 2126.

Under the proposed amendment, violators may face imprisonment for up to 12 years and a maximum fine of P3 million if the incident results in the death of a worker.

If the violation causes injury, the violator may be fined a maximum of P500,000 and imprisoned for up to six years.

A P75,000 compensation must also be given to every injured employee.

Employers, their contractors and subcontractors also stand to lose their business permits for repeated violations of the OSH Law.

“Our bill enumerated the gross violations of OSH Law which can be penalized by fines or imprisonment or both, including failure to heed the Labor department’s compliance order, failure to hold OSH trainings, failure to designate safety officers, and failure to secure a fire safety certificate,” Ms. Brosas said.

The proposed measure also prevents waivers or affidavits of desistance from derailing the pursuit of legal actions against erring employers, citing the usual tactic of guilty employers to force grieving families to sign waivers in case of workplace deaths.

Under the bill, top officials of a corporation will be held liable for the violation.

“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 Ms. De Leon. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan