Bill seeks jail time of up to 12 years vs employers over workplace deaths

Gabriela Party-list on Tuesday, July 19, pushed for heftier penalties--including jail time of 12 years--on employers found violating the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Law.

(Photo by Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

House Bill (HB) 2126, which seeks to criminalize OSH violations, has been filed in the Bills and Index of the House of Representatives by Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.

Under the proposed measure, any employer may face imprisonment for up to 12 years for gross violations of Republic Act (RA) 1058 or the OSH Law that result in the death of workers.

“Even with the enactment of the OSH Law, employers continue to neglect workers’ health and safety which often lead to injuries and death. That is why we need to introduce stiffer penalties and imprisonment in the law,” Brosas said in a statement, accompanied by the copy of the bill.

“Dapat may makulong sa pagkamatay ng mga manggagawa sa pagawaan (Someone must go to jail for the death of workers at the worksite),” she stressed.

The criminal liability of employers is on top of the fines. which range from P1 million to P3 million.

Gross violations of at least 12 items in the OSH standards would result to a maximum of P300,000 administrative fee separate from the daily fine, as well as up to one year and one day to three years in prison.

If the violations resulted in injuries, the fine will be between P300,000 and P500,000, with one year and one day to six years in prison. There will also be an indemnity of P75,000 per employee.

Employers and their contractors and subcontractors also stand to lose their business permits for repeated violations of the OSH Law.

READ: DOLE tells employers: Ensure workplaces are safe or face penalties

Brosas added the bill listed down the gross violations of OSH Law which can be “penalized by fines or imprisonment or both, including failure to heed the Labor department’s compliance order, failure to hold OSH trainings, failure to designate safety officers, and failure to secure a fire safety certificate".

Gabriela’s filing of HB No. 2126 came after a string of workplace deaths, which claimed the lives of 12 workers in recent weeks.

According to the Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment (ISLE) for 2019, there were 310 fatal cases of occupational accidents that resulted in workers’ deaths.

The lawmaker explained that HB 2126 also prevents waivers or affidavits of desistance from derailing the pursuit of legal actions against erring employers in the event of workplace deaths.

The workplace safety group Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) and families of workplace accident victims joined Gabriela in pushing for the proposed measure.

The absence of stricter penalties and imprisonment for employers who commit gross violations of RA11058 or the OSH Law contributed to the fatal accidents that occurred in workplaces in recent years, IOHSAD claimed.

“The consecutive workplace deaths during the past one and a half months are alarming. The government should decisively act now to put an end to workplace deaths,” IOHSAD Executive Director Nadia De Leon said in a separate statement.

“The recent recognition of OSH as a fundamental principle and right at work by the International Labor Organization highlighted government responsibility in ensuring safe and healthy working environments at all times,” she added.