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Bill prescribes criminal liability for OSH violations

Three party-list lawmakers have filed a bill that will criminalize violations of occupational safety and health (OSH). 

In House Bill 2126, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, Act Teachers Rep. France Castro and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel said they filed the measure following a string of workplace deaths, which claimed the lives of 12 workers over the past six weeks. 

Under House Bill 2126, employers may face imprisonment for up to 12 years for gross violations of Republic Act 11058, or the OSH law, which result in the death of workers, aside from the fines which range from P1 million to P3 million. Employers and their contractors and subcontractors also stand to lose their business permits for repeated violations of the OSH Law. 

“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. Dapat may makulong sa pagkamatay ng mga manggagawa sa pagawaan,” said Brosas.  (Somebody must be held responsible for the death of a worker at the workplace]

“Our bill enumerated 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,” she added. 

The lawmakers explained that HB 2126 also prevents waivers or affidavits of desistance from derailing the pursuit of legal actions against erring employers, citing the usual tactic of guilty employers to force grieving families to sign waivers in case of workplace deaths.  

Under the measure, the company president, vice president, chief executive officer, general manager, managing director or partner can be held liable for imprisonment over gross violations of the OSH law. 

“We have successfully pushed for the enactment of the OSH law in 2018. Now, we are continuing the campaign for safer workplaces by pushing for the enactment of this important measure. This is not an easy feat, as we will face again the strong opposition of employers who lobbied for the removal of penal provisions in the final version of the OSH law,” Brosas said.

 “But we will nevertheless advance our demand to criminalize OSH violations, especially as we look at the continuing impunity over work place deaths and tragedies,” she added.

The bill said that an employer, contractor or subcontractor who willfully fails or refuses to comply with the required OSH standards or with a duly issued compliance order, and engages in any of the following acts to aid, conceal or facilitate such noncompliance, shall be considered as having grossly violated this proposal shall be liable for a maximum of P300,000, administrative fine separate from the daily fine of P100,000 per day or imprisonment of not less than one year and three years, or both at the discretion of the court. 

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