By Hannah Torregoza
The government and its contractors should ensure the safety and well-being of construction workers as they consider the resumption of big-ticket infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” flagship program.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian emphasized the need for the government to find a way to implement these construction projects while maintaining a high level of safety for workers to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“Sa ating paglilibot-libot habang nagbibigay ng tulong sa mg tao, nakita ko ang kawawang kalagayan ng mga construction workers. Karamihan sa kanila ay na-stranded, hindi makauwi sa bahay nila dahil naka-lockdown at walang masakyan. Higit pa diyan, wala silang makain sa mga construction sites (I’ve seen the plight of our construction workers while distributing relief packages. Most of them were stranded and couldn’t go home because of the lockdown and there are no available transportation. More than that, they have nothing to eat at construction sites),” Gatchalian said.
“Nananawagan ako sa mga construction companies at mga contractors na huwag naman natin silang pabayaan (So I’m calling on all construction companies and all contractors not to neglect them),” he appealed.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) earlier announced that priority and essential construction work may now be done in areas placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), in accordance with DPWH guidelines.
But before this happens, Gatchalian said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should issue guidelines that will provide direction to employers and workers in ensuring a safe environment in construction sites under dire circumstances.
The guidelines should include the observance of social distancing in the construction area by clearly delineating spaces, staggering time schedule, and/or reducing the number of workers in specific working sites, the senator reiterated.
He also said contractors should also provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers and they should minimize the use of shared tools in order to ensure their safety.
The senator further said it is imperative that workers are properly trained because they will be doing construction work using PPEs or a new of set safety tools and equipment this time around.
Besides construction workers, Gatchalian said engineers, and safety officers should also be provided sanitized accommodation near their project sites. He also emphasized the need for safety officers to enforce DOLE’s occupational safety guidelines given the new normal situation.
“Our skilled workers are our country’s best asset. They are the backbone of the country’s strong and resilient economy. Aside from providing them jobs at this time, let’s not forget about their well-being and by issuing clear guidelines on a safe working environment, we will be able to ensure their safety,” the lawmaker stressed.
“Tandaan natin na nakapaloob pa rin ito sa layunin nating maiwasang ikalat ang virus at dumami pa ang bilang ng mga namamatay (Remember that this is one of our goals to prevent the spread of the virus and to bring down the number of casualties in COVID-19),” Gatchalian emphasized.