One month after the fire in the House Technology Industries (HTI) that left many workers injured and still many others unaccounted for and possibly dead, a workplace safety NGO said the government refuses to learn lessons from the country’s experiences with deadly factory fires.
The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) said it is no accident that two of the biggest industrial fires in the country’s history happened after the Department of Labor and Employment approved its order regarding labor laws compliance in 2013.
“The HTI fire, and the Kentex fire before it, show that the government’s devotion to ‘voluntary compliance’ has only put workers’ lives in great danger. Blind trust on employers’ honest disclosure of real working conditions and their compliance with workplace safety and health standards is fatal to workers,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD advocacy officer.
The Kentex fire tragedy in May 2015 claimed the lives of more than 72 workers. Both Kentex and HTI received certificates stating their compliance with general labor and occupational safety and health (OSH) standards months before they were razed by fire – the first from DOLE, the second from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
Fact-finding missions after the fire tragedies revealed the following grave violations of OSH standards: (1) chemicals and other easily combustible materials were not stored properly, (2) fire alarm systems were not in place, (3) workers were trapped because of locked fire exits and emergency exits led to the burning building instead of safe and fire-resistant areas.
“The OSH violations revealed by the injuries and deaths caused by the fires show that companies violate safety standards and the government’s so-called labor inspection is anomalous, to say the least. Despite these criminal violations, no employer has been truly held accountable,” said de Leon.
IOHSAD said that industrial fires can be prevented through regular and strict inspection of compliance with OSH standards by business establishments, particularly those which are considered hazardous and fire-prone. It said that the government should conduct mandatory inspection of all workplaces regardless of size and kind of operation.
“When will the government learn? Is it waiting for the ‘Big Fire’ to happen inside economic zones or factory belts before it ensures workers’ safety and truly implement mandatory inspection of workplaces?” de Leon asked.
The group said it will not stop until employers who violate safety and health standards, especially those that cause the death of workers, are held accountable and until victims attain justice.
Read more about it here and download the full report of the National Fact on the accident below.