With 1,045 establishments covering 14,697 workers already assessed by three joint assessment/inspection teams constituted after the 13 May fire incident at the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. factory in Valenzuela City, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday made the assurance that the findings in these establishments as a result of the joint assessments/inspections pose no imminent danger or risk to workers’ lives and that the said establishments have indicated their willingness to correct their deficiencies in accordance with established timelines.
“These are the positive aspects of the joint assessments/inspections: there will be no business closures, no jobs to be lost, and there is no imminent risk or danger to lives of the workers,” said Baldoz after she received an update report from Regional Director Alex Avila of the DOLE National Capital Region on the on-going joint assessments.
The three teams that have been tasked to conduct joint assessment/inspection in the wake of the fire incident that killed 72 workers are the (1) Task Force Valenzuela, which has already assessed 25 establishments covering 1,255 workers; (2) Joint Assessment of the DOLE-DILG-Bureau of Fire Protection in Valenzuela and Quezon Cities, which has already covered 344 establishments in Quezon City involving 6,646 workers, and 384 establishments in Valenzuela City involving 6,796 workers, or a total of 728 establishments and 13,442 workers; and (3) the four Valenzuela City Inspection and Audit Teams, which have covered 392 establishments or 26.67 percent of the total 1,470 target establishments.
The assessments/inspections made by the three teams have uncovered deficiencies in these establishments, the most common of which were on occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) compliance, according to Director Avila.
Among these OSHS deficiencies were non-registration of establishments under Rule 1020; non-submission of administrative reports on safety and health; no safety and health organization; no OSH policies; no health personnel; no safety personnel; lack of fire protection equipment/facilities; and no emergency exits.
Avila also reported that of those assessed/inspected establishments, 35 had refused entry; 24 had already ceased operations or no longer exist; 22 have already been assessed; and only three have no OSH deficiencies.
“We also discovered deficiencies on General Labor Standards and on OSHS-technical safety,” Avila said. He assured Secretary Baldoz that the teams are fully analyzing their findings on the joint assessments/inspection and will prepare detailed reports that the DOLE will make public.
Relative to this, Baldoz directed Director Avila and all other DOLE regional directors to monitor the compliance of establishments in the implementation of corrective actions for all deficiencies based on action plans jointly approved by the DOLE’s labor laws compliance officer, the union, and the management.
Establishments are mandated to correct their deficiencies within 30 days for general labor standards deficiencies and within 90 days for deficiencies in OSHS.
She also said that in the implementation of joint corrective plans of actions, the DOLE should draw very clear delineation of roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities among the DOLE, DILG-BFP, local government units, and even union and management.
This is in line with her directive last week to all DOLE regional directors to step up coordination and enforcement efforts to ensure workplace safety and to prevent the occurrence of an accident similar to the Kentex fire in Valenzuela City.
“For general safety inspection, this clearly belongs to the DOLE, such as determination of safety of work environment, including the location and operation of machinery other than those covered by technical safety inspection; adequacy of work space; ventilation; lighting conditions of work environment; handling, storage or work procedures; protection facilities (PPEs, helmets and protective headgear; noise mufflers; rubber shoes, etc.) and other safety and health hazards in the workplace,” Baldoz said.
For technical safety inspection, Baldoz said this also clearly belongs to the DOLE so labor laws compliance officers must monitor compliance with corrective actions on deficiencies on boilers, pressure vessels, internal combustion engines, electrical installations, elevators, hoisting equipment, and other mechanical equipment.
On fire protection and control, Baldoz said coordination should result to a referral to the DILG-BFP of all matters covered by the Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC), including fire tests of building materials and fire protection equipment used in any place or employment, fire safety and protection mechanisms and equipment, such as fire extinguishers, sprinklers, fire exits, fire ladders, etc.
She said even the labeling, handling, and storage of chemicals or materials—inflammable, toxic, and poisonous or not—should be considered and the responsibilities for such clearly established.
On the specific standards in design and construction, occupancy, and use of buildings and facilities should be looked into and any deficiencies should be referred to authorities implementing the Building Code of the Philippines, said Baldoz as she noted the observation that the Kentex manufacturing facility was designed to be a warehouse and only converted to a factory.