Editorial: Occupational safety

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THREE people were killed in Cordova town late Sunday night after they were suffocated while cleaning a septic tank. That’s only a few weeks after two people were also suffocated while trying to clean a clogged drainage filled with garbage in Talisay City.

Incidents like these are recurring, which makes one wonder whether we ever learn. Those people died because they plunged into work without considering their safety. If they did, they would have taken the needed precautionary measures, like wearing safety gears or testing the holes for seepage of poisonous gases.

On a bigger scale, a miner died and three others suffered injuries after part of a coal mine in Dungga, Danao City collapsed last March 1. Again, incidents like this are recurring. In Cebu alone, the collapse of coal mines have taken the lives of many miners for decades now.


But it’s not only in the work of cleaning septic tanks or mining for coal that the mantra “safety first” is non-existent. Many people do not even know what occupational safety and health is about.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as early as in the 1950s, laid down three different objectives of occupational health, which includes “development of work organizations and working cultures in a direction which supports health and safety at work.”

Meaning that, the safety-first idea has been around for decades, a summation of the lessons of many work-related accidents worldwide. Yet such a culture that “supports health and safety at work” seems to have not fully taken hold in the Philippines.

The profit motive and plain ignorance are the main reasons why such a culture is largely non-existent in the workplace. Firms discard occupational safety rules to save on production cost, and people are forced to work in hazardous situations to earn their keep.

On this, concerned government agencies should have taken the lead in putting into practice occupational safety and health principles, but corruption and incompetence hound their implementation.

Until we transcend our primitive ways, we will continue to see people dying in the country’s workplaces.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 05, 2014.


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