Safety and health at work and labour laws compliance system

Opening address at the Commemoration of Workers' Memorial Day and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work; and the Conduct of Conference Workshop on Workers Participation in the Labour Laws Compliance System

By Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Commemoration of Workers' Memorial Day and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work; and the Conduct of Conference Workshop on Workers at the Sequoia Hotel, Quezon City, 28 April 2016.

Statement | Quezon City, Philippines | 28 April 2016
  • Attorney Sonny Matula of the Federation of Free Workers
  • Officials and representatives of workers’ organizations in the public and private sectors, and informal economy;
  • Our young and adult workers representing various sectors in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao;
  • Guests, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning!

I am honoured to meet all of you today for the first time in an occasion that raises the awareness of workers’ on current global occupational safety and health issues, and harmoniously recognizes the many injured and fallen workers in the Philippines and other parts of the globe.

The ILO has been a global frontrunner in advocating Occupational Safety and Health standards in compliance to its member States, recognizing that occupational injuries, disease and deaths have a negative effect on productivity and on economic and social development.

This year’s observation of World Day for Safety and Health at Work with a theme “Workplace Stress: A Collective Challenge” gives importance on the issue of workplace stress. Encountering work-related stress may be commonly viewed as typical once we enter the labour force. However, studies around the globe disclose that work-related stress can result to health-related impairment and musculoskeletal disorders that can lead to fatalities.

Psychosocial hazards and risks in the workplace brought about by increased competition, higher expectations on performance, and longer working hours contribute to a more stressful working environment, which many of us in this venue may have experienced.

The failure to recognize and address such hazards and risks expose workers to exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, depression, cardio-vascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders.   

Developed countries account for the greater share on prevalence on psychosocial hazards and work-related stress and a lesser extent in the Asia-Pacific Region. For instance, 40 million people in the European Union are affected by work-related stress, in Japan, 32.4 per cent of workers reported suffering from strong anxiety, worry and stress. In the Philippines, cases of exhaustion increased in 2013 with a percentage of 71.6 from 2011. Work-related musculoskeletal diseases had the highest percentage change at 427.6 in 2013.

It is imperative to minimize (if unlikely be eliminated) work-related stress as other countries have done like having health surveillance in Japan. Correspondingly, ensuring our national legislation or labour law explicitly defines the role of employers and workers to have interventions on psychosocial hazards and risks is critical in ensuring the safety and health of workers. Our intention is to further reduce fatalities or illnesses and diseases that can impoverish a family, and in aggregate harms the national economy due to lower local consumption.

Addressing occupational-related fatalities is a continuing concern that require our focused attention and synergy. In the recent Integrated Survey on Labor and Employment or ISLE, fatal cases increased by 67.7 per cent in 2013; 1.3 per cent or 270 compared in 2011’s 0.8 per cent or 161. Significantly, let us exert more effort to increase awareness of workers and employers. However, awareness raising campaigns will not alone minimize or eradicate fatalities of workers. This should be matched by clarity on our role in OSH promotion and compliance monitoring, capacitating workers, and enhancing our monitoring framework and system.

An effective labour inspectorate plays a critical role in promoting and enforcing existing OSH standards at the workplace. One of the core principles of an effective labour inspectorate is transparency – where employers, workers and other stakeholders are informed of their rights and duties, what is expected of them under the law, and what they can expect from the labour inspection services.  With a transparent labour inspection system, an enterprise’s level of compliance can be more realistically assessed, corrective measures are implemented, and there are possibilities for workplace social dialogue between workers and employers on sustaining compliance.

The Labour Laws Compliance System otherwise known as the LLCS, provides this opportunity by requiring that joint assessments be carried out with a worker’s representative, duly selected by workers’ themselves

However, ensuring genuine representation of workers’ representatives in the joint assessment process remains a challenge, especially in non-unionized establishments. 

Hopefully, this two-day activity can facilitate open discussion among the country’s trade unions on how to clarify existing guidelines on workers’ representation before, during and after an assessment. Furthermore, we hope that workers’ organizations present here today can also identify proposals on how inspection data at the regional, industry and national levels can be mainstreamed as part of tripartite social dialogue and policy review.

To date, the Philippines has the opportunity to promote OSH compliance through the implementation of two ILO projects being funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) and in partnerships with our tripartite partners. These two projects, however will not succeed without the support of the workers’ organizations. The Project on “Building the Capacity of the Philippines’ Labour Inspectorate”, aims at contributing to improved workplace compliance, through interventions that would improve the effectiveness of labour inspections, and the capacity of both workers and employers to engage in assessments, and social dialogue to sustain compliance.  Another project on “Building a Generation of Safe and Healthy Workers - Safe and Healthy Youth” aims to improve the working conditions of workers aged 15 to 24 years old, and develop a culture of prevention in the country. The Project converges with the intention of the labour inspection project, because having an effective monitoring system with a strong representation of workers is critical in enforcing the OSH compliance.

In both Projects, workers’ organizations are critical in providing feedback about their working conditions. Your support and inputs will help us determine appropriate interventions, so we may be able to enhance compliance monitoring mechanisms and strategies, and strengthen enforcement and promotion of occupational safety and health in the workplace.

I commend the various workers’ organizations that contributed to make this gathering possible. As we honour the injured and fallen workers, let us distinguish that these injuries and fatalities can be prevented and reduced.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay kayo!

 Funding is provided by the United States Department of Labor under cooperative agreement number IL-26690-14-75-K-11.

This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government. One hundred percentage of the total costs of the project or programme is financed with Federal funds, for a total of 11,443,156 dollars.