By Hannah Torregoza
Reelectionist Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay has sought passage of a measure that would ensure that those working as professional cleaners such as garbage collectors, street sweepers and individuals assigned in disaster areas are protected against exposure to hazardous and infectious materials.
Binay said these workers should be afforded their rights to protect themselves against harmful stuff given the dangerous nature of their job.
However, Binay said there is lack of existing guidelines and programs addressing the concerns of these professional cleaners.
“The hazardous working environment faced every single day by garbage collectors, individuals assigned in disaster areas and those who work in dumpsites exposes them to various health and safety risks,” Binay said in filing Senate Bill No. 2083 or the proposed “Individuals’ Health and Safety Act.”
“This bill seeks to protect the health and safety of individuals working in dumpsites or assigned in disaster areas by providing concrete guidelines that shall be observed and implemented in disaster area operations and dumpsite activities,” said Binay.
The measure mandates the provision of gloves, masks and other proper protective equipment, including periodic medical check-up for those involved in garbage collection or working in dumpsites and disaster areas.
Under the bill, Binay said no individual would be allowed to work in dumpsites or disaster areas unless they are properly equipped with safety gears and protective equipment.
This is to “protect them from any airborne toxins and health risks during clean-up operations where hazardous materials and infectious chemicals are present.”
The bill also includes a provision that requires them to undergo a regular medical check up to ensure that their health and safety are not prejudiced.
“The proper government agencies or private corporations or entities that employ them shall provide for the necessary fund to finance the cost of medical attention or intervention that may be needed,” Binay said.
At the same time, Binay also proposed a ban on the use of open garbage trucks.
The lawmaker said contractors or entities engaged in garbage collection in Metro Manila and other parts of the country shall have to place all collected garbage inside closed containers.
The bill particularly mandates the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned offices to come up with a set of comprehensive guidelines specifically for responder or clean-up crew to be deployed to any rescue or clean-up operations in disaster areas where presence of hazardous and infectious materials shall place them at greater risks.
She said this is to ensure that responders and clean-up crews are subject to a full environmental assessment, properly informed of the environmental hazards they may face in their work, provided proper training in handling toxic materials and protective equipment and receive proper immunization if necessary and appropriate.
Violators would be meted a fine ranging from P200,000 to P500,000, including revocation of necessary license to operate as regards private entities.