In the aftermath of SPC Malaya Power Corp accident
Baldoz orders review of standards on scaffolding; free OSH training for small construction companies
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday ordered the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC), and the DOLE regional offices to immediately review the standards applicable to the use of scaffolding in construction, noting that most of the recent accidents in construction are caused by defective or faulty scaffolding.
"There are existing standards on the installation and dismantling of scaffolding that may be already outdated given that building construction nowadays tend to be higher and higher," she said.
"We need to review these standards and update them to strengthen construction safety," Baldoz added, noting that the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) and DOLE Department Order No. 13, or the Guidelines Governing Safety and Health in the Construction Industry, were promulgated respectively in 1989 and in 1998 yet.
For this purpose, she instructed the BWC and the Bureau of Labor Relations to convene the Construction Industry Tripartite Council (CITC) and review Rule 1410 of the OSHS, specifically to update its provisions on the erection, building, maintenance, use, and dismantling of scaffolding in all construction sites and align them to modern construction practices and technologies.
She also issued an administrative order instructing all the regional offices to coordinate with the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC), the OSHC and its OSH Networks (OSHNETs) to provide free construction safety training (CST) for contractors and subcontractors of small-scale establishments.
"We also would like to help small construction companies by providing them free construction safety training," Baldoz said.
In her order, Baldoz instructed the relevant DOLE offices to "determine potential participants for the 40-hour prescribed Construction Safety Training (CST)" which the regional offices, OSHC, ECC, and the regional OSH-Nets will jointly conduct for free.
"The training participants should come from small construction companies and projects that cannot afford to pay training fees. After the training, we shall monitor the re-entry plans of the participants in relation to the implementation of safety and health improvements in the participants’ construction projects," Baldoz emphasized.
Baldoz issued these instructions after the DOLE Regional Office No. 4-A, headed by Regional Director Alex Avila, reported that five workers were killed and 12 others were injured while doing repair work in the inner lining of the smoke stack of SPC Malaya Power Corporation (formerly KEPCO Philippines Corporation) in Malaya, Pililia, Rizal.
Avila said initial investigation revealed that the collapse of the scaffolding occurred at the 20th layer and said he had already issued a Work Stoppage Order to both the SPC Malaya Power Corporation and its contractor involving all repair, construction, and clean-up work at the smokestack which was the site of the accident.
The contractor, East-West Works Industrial Services, Inc., was hired by the SPC Malaya Power Corporation to repair the inner lining of a 76-meter high smoke stack.
The DOLE Regional Office said East-West Works Industrial Services is not registered with DOLE under DO-18-A (both in DOLE 4-A and DOLE-NCR) and has no existing construction and safety and health program (CSHP) approved by the DOLE. On the other hand, SPC Malaya Power Corporation has an accredited safety officer trained by the Safety Organization of the Philippines.
Baldoz has deployed a team from the DOLE Regional Office 4-A to conduct an investigation and check if the company and its contractor have complied with labor standards, including occupational safety and health standards.
Update results of the investigation revealed that the contractor has no safe operating procedures for the erection and dismantling of scaffoldings and no detailed job hazard analysis. It also revealed that the contractor used scaffoldings not designed and approved by a structural engineer; has no certified first aider; no qualified safety officer; and no registration under Rule 1020 of the OSHS.
However, the investigating team also reported that based on interviews with some of the survivors, the workers of the contractor were wearing complete Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the time of the accident. The workers are also covered under Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG and they receive wages above the prescribed minimum wage.
Avila, who had personally went to the DOLE Rizal field office to sign the Inspection Authority and Notice of Work Stoppage Order and monitor the investigation, is coordinating with the company and the contractor, as well as the worker-victims' families on all possible and maximum assistance that can be provided.
"Both the contractor, East-West Works Industrial Services, Inc. and the SPC Malaya Power Corporation will provide financial assistance to the families of the victims," Avila said.
Baldoz also reported that the ECC had already dispatched on 6 February a QRP Team to the site of the accident to visit the injured victims in the hospital and the families of the workers killed in the accident.
"The ECC explained to them the DOLE's Employee Compensation Program and assisted them in filling-up EC claims application forms. The ECC also encouraged them to avail of rehabilitation services provided by the ECC's KAGABAY program.
Baldoz once again reiterated her call for construction companies and contractors to comply with occupational safety and health (OSH) standards and abide by the guidelines governing occupational safety and health in the construction industry under Department Order No. 13, to ensure safety and health of construction workers.
“This tragic industrial accident at the SPC Malaya Power Corporation tells us forcefully that the implementation of measures to prevent injuries and illnesses, and worse, deaths, is a must in every workplace, especially in high-risk jobs such as those in construction,” Baldoz said.
She also asked workers, contractors, and company owners not only to adhere to the guidelines under D.O. 13, but also to avail of construction safety training the OSHC conducts to raise knowledge and awareness and teach skills in accident prevention.
Pursuant to D.O. No. 13, every construction project must have a suitable construction safety and health program duly approved by the BWC, and a full-time accredited safety officer who should oversee the program’s implementation at the project site.
There must also be a safety and health committee conducting regular safety and health orientation for all workers. All workers should also be equipped with complete personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by the employer.