The annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.
Occupational accidents and diseases cause human suffering and loss. Their economic cost is high, with some 2 million workers dying each year from work-related accidents and diseases, and the figure is on the increase in spite of efforts to make inroads.
Filipino workers unprotected
According to the International Labor Organization Country Office in the Philippines, only 2.2 million Filipino workers in medium and large enterprises enjoy effective occupational safety and health (OSH) protection and services. In other words, 17 of 18 persons in the nation’s workforce of 38.8 million do not benefit from acceptable working conditions. Studies substantiate that OSH conditions in micro-firms and the informal sector pose risks and hazards.
Only last March 20, a mall in the Philippines was exposed online for its horrific work environment. Dim lighting, muddy floors, grimy mirrors, peeling walls, moldy toilets and an undeniable stench—these are what greeted Jennifer Marañon, a job applicant, when she walked into the employees’ locker room of a department store in Makati City.
A month before this incident, 37 of 500 call center employees suffocated to death while fleeing from the upper floors of the burning NCCC mall. The fire reportedly broke out from a furniture store at the third floor and immediately spread out.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said that based on the accounts of the SSI employees, there was no fire alarm, fire exits were blocked, and sprinklers did not work in the SSI office at the NCCC mall. Some survivors also said they were not immediately told about the then ongoing fire. Their office is registered as an economic zone under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
Labor safety rights pushed
Weeks after the horrendous incident, the Senate finally approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to mandate employers’ stricter compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) to better promote the right of Filipino workers to healthy and safe workplaces. Under the proposed measure, any erring employer would be served a fine of up to P100,000 “as an administrative penalty for every day of non-correction of violation.”
These legislative measures are a huge step in ensuring that workers are not deprived of their occupational safety rights. Labor Day is just around the corner and 150,000 workers all over the country, from different labor groups, are expected to join one of the biggest mobilizations in the country. This year’s Labor Day protest calls for wage hike, genuine occupational safety protocols, and banning of any form of contractualization.
The ILO celebrates the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on the 28 April to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health, and on the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases, and fatalities worldwide.
World Safety and Health at Work. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2018, from http://www.ilo.org/safework/events/safeday/lang–en/index.htm