Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act provides protection to workers vs hazards in workplace

Firms need to comply with occupational safety and health (OSH) standards to ensure a safe and healthful workplace.

Ma. Teresita Somera-Cucueco, director at Bureau of Working Conditions of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), said this is stipulated under Republic Act (RA) No. 11058, otherwise known as “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations thereof.”

With the RA 11058, Somera-Cucueco said employers are required to inform workers about all types of hazards in the workplace and having the right to refuse unsafe work, as well as provide protective and safety devices such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and machine guards.

“If there are workers who are doing high risk activities, there should be a re-orientation that is conducted regularly, not less than once a quarter, and to be conducted immediately following any changes in the operations and production process,” she noted.

Somera-Cucueco stressed the worker has the right of refusal to work without threat or reprisal from the employer if, as determined by DOLE, an imminent danger situation exists.

“The employer or safety officer cannot require the workers to return to work where there is a continuing imminent danger,” she said.

Somera-Cucueco also highlighted the rights of workers and their representatives to report accidents, dangerous occurrences, and hazards to the employer and to government agencies.

“I hope you understand the value of reporting. It is not done so that we can penalize a company especially for dangerous occurrences,” she said. “I think many big companies now even incentivize reporting because if you report dangerous occurrences and you respond to this, you are reducing or even preventing an accident situation that may happen.”

Somera-Cucueco further said all establishments, projects, and sites shall have safety signage and devices to warn the workers and the public of the hazards in the workplace.

She said their occupational safety and health program, which shall be duly signed by the employer, must include company commitment to comply with OSH requirements; general safety and health programs; accident/incident/illness investigation, recording and reporting; provision and use of PPE; and provision of safety signage.

All employers, contractors or subcontractors, if any, shall submit to DOLE all safety and health reports, and notifications such as but not limited to annual medical report (AMR), OSH committee report, employer’s work accident/injury report (WAIR), and annual work accident/injury exposure data report (AEDR), she added.

Somera-Cucueco said the Secretary of Labor and Employment (SecLab) or his/her duly authorized representatives with the appropriate inspection authority shall have the authority to enforce the mandatory OSH standards in all establishments and conduct an annual spot audit on its compliance for the same.

She pointed any willful failure or refusal of an employer, contractor or subcontractor to comply with required OSH standards, or with a compliance order issued by the SecLab, or his/her authorized representative, shall be penalized of the administrative fines.

These pertains to the use of approved or certified devices and equipment for the task, provision of PPE or charging of provided PPE to workers, and compliance with DOLE-issued work stoppage order (WSO), among others, she added.

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