DOLE Bicol Safety Patrol to slap violators with stricter penalties

LEGAZPI CITY—Following the horrible demise of workers to a fire accident in a slippers factory in Valenzuela City and the fatal accident of a construction worker just few meters away from the DOLE V office two months ago, DOLE Bicol Regional Director Nathaniel V. Lacambra ordered the reactivation of the DOLE Bicol Safety Patrol.

Said patrol is tasked to oversee and implement stricter safety measures and penalties in both the construction and manufacturing industry in the region.

RD Nathaniel Lacambra
Photo: PRO5
“We have to make sure that what happened in Valenzuela must not happen in Bicol. I have instructed our safety patrol to be very keen in their assessment and to impose penalties immediately when there is a violation,” Lacambra said.

Business owners here said that DOLE Bicol’s pronouncements on a stricter safety program did not come as a shock to them.

In fact, some see it as an opportunity to improve the overall safety of their establishments.
“We believe that the Valenzuela incident was an eye-opener not just to the government but to us business owners as well. Just imagine the impact of losing your people and your business. Who would want that?” a businessman, who owns several leasing spaces, but refused to be named, opined.

The Safety Patrol, now dubbed DOLE V Bi-SAFE Patrol, is actually not a new idea
but an improvement of the existing safety program of the office which has a tripartite approach, Lacambra explained.  It is composed of safety and health experts from the DOLE, ECC, social tripartite partners and a representative from the newly-created Regional Occupational Safety and Health Center (ROSHC).

The main function of the DOLE V Bi-SAFE Patrol is to conduct safety audits region wide focusing on construction and manufacturing firms. During audit the safety patrol team must analyze the overall safety conditions of the construction and manufacturing environment in the region and based on existing records, and label establishments with accident possibilities as high-risk, mid-risk and low-risk. After analysis, the team shall have a thorough on-site visit or assessment of those labelled as high-risk. A safety recommendation shall then be issued. Lastly, a follow up visit will be conducted to check whether or not the recommendation was addressed.

“If the company snubs the recommendation of the Safety Patrol, the next move is to issue a Work Stoppage Order. Yes, to some this may be a bit harsh but I believe this is needed in order for us to have safer workplaces in Bicol. I do not want to lose another construction worker,” the regional director stressed.

It may be recalled that DOLE Bicol issued a Work Stoppage Order (WSO) to a local construction firm following a fatal accident that happened in a bridge construction just a few meters away from its office sometime in March.

Said order was issued immediately after the accident to prevent future mishaps on said construction site.

“If you would look at it deeper, we issued the WSO to protect, number 1 the workers, number 2 the public and number 3 the company. Imagine if we had not issued the work stoppage order and then someone from that barangay met another accident. The company and the community should even thank DOLE Bicol for the work stoppage order,” Lacambra explained.

Aside from issuing the Work Stoppage Order, DOLE Bicol also gave several recommendations to the construction firm on how to make its construction site safer to workers and passers-by alike. The regional office said the WSO will be lifted if and only if all the safety measures have been put in place.

“Construction firms must realize that our Work Stoppage Order is not permanent and can be lifted if they religiously adhere to our recommendations. We do this not for caprices but to prevent future accidents,” Lacambra added.

The said Work Stoppage Order was lifted by DOLE Bicol on April 30, 2015 upon full compliance of the construction firm to the safety recommendations of DOLE Bicol.

“It irks me when there’s news that workers die. So, now let’s put more teeth to our safety patrol team. Go issue a Work Stoppage Order ASAP. If this is what is needed to let companies focus on safety, then so be it,” he said.—by Raymond Escalante