DOLE stresses construction safety after BGC building mishap

MANILA, Philippines – On the heels of a Taguig construction site accident that killed two and injured at least 11 others, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz ordered a nationwide assessment of contractors and subcontractors in the construction industry.

Baldoz issued on Thursday, February 5, a directive to all regional heads of the labor department to check compliance of the firms to labor rules including government rules on contracting and subcontracting labor, as well as occupational safety and health standards.

“I want regular progress reports of construction companies and their subcontractors’ compliance,” she said, ordering that priority be given to firms with existing construction projects.

The regional directors were told to devise a strict monitoring system to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety rules and regulations, which Baldoz said is "a matter of life and death."

The labor chief was "dismayed by the successive fatal accidents that greeted the new year." 

The mishap at a building under construction at the Bonifacio Global Center in Taguig City occured on Wednesday, February 4 – two weeks after the wall of a Bulacan warehouse, also under construction, fell over workers' quarters and killed 11 people, including a 7-year-old, and a pregnant woman. (READ: Negligence, child labor seen in Bulacan warehouse accident)

Baldoz had earlier urged Congress to enact a law with stiff penalties for violators of the country’s health and safety rules.

Criminalize grave offenses?

Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) reiterated calls to criminalize grave and fatal violations of occupational health and safety standards to deter employers from committing such gross offenses.

KMU chairperson Elmer Labog underscored the weakness of current labor rules which rely mostly on a "self-monitoring" scheme.

Labog stressed "the serious occupational hazards being faced by workers in the construction sector," who he described as among those who "belong to the poorest of the poor" and need government protection.

"We condemn the government for promoting public- and private-sector construction while refusing to give construction workers the necessary protection," Labog said. –