Villanueva urges DOLE to fast-track advisory on work in Taal-affected areas

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, has called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to issue an advisory on work in the areas affected by Taal volcano to ensure the health and safety of workers.

Senator Joel Villanueva (Senator Joel Villanueva Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Joel Villanueva (Senator Joel Villanueva Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The areas hit by the volcano’s ash falls are in Region 4-A, particularly in Batangas,

Villanueva also encouraged employers and their safety officers to assess whether there is imminent danger in their workplace and prioritize the safeguarding of the health and safety of their workers.

“Given the heightened concerns of workers in Batangas, parts of Laguna and Cavite, as well as nearby areas including Metro Manila, the DOLE must help ease the tension by issuing a relevant labor advisory which can guide the private sector in deciding whether to run their operations or offices in the light of Taal’s eruptions,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Employers and company-designated safety officers should also determine on their own whether it is safe for their workers to report today (Jan. 13) in their workplace. Safety officers are empowered to issue a work-stoppage order in their workplaces without threat or reprisal from employers as enshrined in the law and implementing rules.”

Villanueva, principal author and sponsor of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) Act, clarified that the workers’ right to refuse to work on account of imminent danger must be supported by a finding from the Department of Labor and Employment that an imminent danger to their health and safety exists, hence the need for a DOLE Advisory.

Section 6 of the OSHS law, or Republic Act No. 11058, states: “The worker has the right of refusal to work without threat or reprisal from the employer if, as determined by the DOLE, an imminent danger situation exists in the workplace that may result to illness, injury, or death, and corrective actions to eliminate the danger have not been undertaken by the employer.”

The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law extend the same protection against employers’ threats or reprisal against safety officers who issue work stoppage orders, Villanueva added.

If workers are exposed to dust or ash outdoors, they should be provided with adequate personal protective equipment, including appropriate dust masks, he said, urging the DOLE to immediately release the advisory because of potential health hazards for workers outdoors.