Senator Joel Villanueva has reminded employers to prioritize the safety and welfare of their employees after reports circulated that some workers in Metro Manila were not able leave their work areas during the recent magnitude 6.1 earthquake that jolted the capital and nearby provinces.

“The law is clear. The right of workers to safety and health at work is guaranteed,” said Villanueva, citing a section in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) law which he authored as chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development.

“We can’t simply expect our employees to march back to their workstations or to the shop floor without management and safety experts conducting a walkthrough of the facility to assess its structural integrity,” the seasoned legislator continued in a statement.

“Sadly, we learned that some offices did just that. We should remind them that the welfare of workers is always of paramount concern. Places of work are the second home of our workers.”

“Places of work are the second home of our workers.”

Monday’s 6.1-magnitude earthquake shook Metro Manila past 5:00 p.m. just as most offices were winding down their work day.

The veteran lawmaker commented on the issue after receiving reports that some workers were caught in apparent distressed situations after the quake. One report added that workers at malls were ordered to remain at their posts instead of evacuating along with customers to exit the building.

The senator also cited another incident in Mandaluyong City which he had witnessed personally on Monday afternoon.

According to Villanueva, he heard a building marshal ordering office workers who evacuated from an office building along Shaw Boulevard to go back inside the building some 30 minutes after the quake.

“The building was over 20 stories high. It’s quite unlikely they’ve inspected the structure thoroughly,” Villanueva said.

He hoped that the reports, which also made rounds on social media, are isolated because “if not, that should be looked into by the labor department.”

“At the very least, the response of marshals in these incidents show that much needs to be done in disaster preparedness. We need to heighten our awareness in what to do when disasters strike, and that includes exerting a lot of effort in protecting the welfare of our workers,” Villanueva added.

“We need to heighten our awareness in what to do when disasters strike, and that includes exerting a lot of effort in protecting the welfare of our workers.”

Republic Act No. 11058 or the OSH law mandates employers to care for the safety and well-being of its employees by instituting measures to prevent accidents and increase awareness on possible occupation hazards.

The law, which was enacted in August last year, provides stiff penalties to employers who may be fined up to P100,000 daily unless they correct all OSH violations stated in a notice duly served by inspectors of the labor department.

The measure further authorizes labor department officials and representatives to enter workplaces at any time of the day or night where work is being performed to examine records and investigate facts, conditions, or matters necessary to determine compliance with the provisions of the OSH law.

The OSH law covers all establishments, projects, sites, and workplaces in all branches of economic activity, but subject to the appropriate standards based on number of employees, nature of operations, and the risk or hazard involved, as determined by the labor department.


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