In keeping with the constitutional policy affirming labor as a primary social and economic force, the President has recently signed into law Republic Act (RA) 11058.
RA 11058, signed on August 17, 2018, intends to strengthen compliance by employers, in all private establishments and places where work is being undertaken in all branches of economic activity, with the occupational safety and health (OSH) standards set by the Secretary of Labor and Employment pursuant to the Labor Code of the Philippines.
Notably, the prevailing codified Occupational Safety and Health Standards in the Philippines is very much outdated. It was formulated way back in 1978, revised in August 1989, and has never been revisited, in its entirety, since then.
Efforts were however made to supplement the same through separate Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issuances to address more recent concerns affecting the workplace like prohibited drugs, HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis B in the place of employment.
The new law requires the participation of both the employer and employee in ensuring full compliance with the OSH standards in a particular workplace.
On one hand, it generally mandates all employers to furnish the workers a place of employment free from hazardous conditions that may cause death, illness or physical harm to the workers. It also requires employers to give complete job safety instructions or orientation to its workers and define the preventive measures to eliminate or minimize potential risks.
The employees, on the other hand, are encouraged to participate in ensuring compliance with OSH standards by reporting any work hazard that may be discovered therein. In fact, the new law likewise grants the worker the right to refuse to work if an imminent danger situation exists in the workplace, especially if corrective actions are not undertaken by the employer.
In such case, the employer is required to pay the concerned workers their wages during the period of such stoppage or suspension of operation.
In demanding compliance or indemnification for non-compliance, the state regulators and victims of non-compliant employers may run after any person who manages, controls or supervises the work being undertaken as the new law holds them jointly and solidarily liable for compliance with the OSH standards.
In this regard, the law imposes a P100,000.00 fine per day in case of willful failure or refusal of an employer to comply with the OSH standards or with a compliance order that may be issued by the Secretary of Labor.
An additional administrative fine of P100,000.00 may however be imposed in case the employer obstructs, delays or refuses to provide the Secretary of Labor with access to the covered workplace or to relevant records and documents.
The additional fine may also be imposed in case of misrepresentation in relation to the adherence to OSH standards, or making retaliatory measures against any worker who has given information relative to the inspection being conducted.
Before the enactment of RA 11058, no law imposes penalty or declares unlawful the violations of OSH standards.
The enactment of RA 11058 is certainly a victory for all workers especially those regularly exposed to occupational risks and health hazards.
Employers are highly encouraged to examine and evaluate their own work environment and revisit existing company policies to ensure full compliance with this new law.
Florian G. Salcedo is a Junior Associate of Mata-Perez, Tamayo & Francisco (MTF Counsel). He is an active member of MTF Counsel’s corporate, labor, litigation and immigration practice. The contents of the above article are intended for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any question or comment regarding this article, you may email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit MTF Counsel’s website at www.mtfcounsel.com.