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Hanjin, boon or bane to workers?

/ 12:16 AM May 17, 2014

“Another worker dead in Hanjin mishap” (Across the Nation, 5/3/14), the 37th (reported) work-related fatality since this $1.6-billion Korean facility started operating in 2006. When will Hanjin workers stop dying? Is the Hanjin management really committed to safety? I would like to state that safety will never succeed unless there is that firm commitment of management to stop the injuries. Safety starts at the top, or it doesn’t begin at all.

For those who are well versed in safety, 98 percent of all injuries and accidents are preventable. And Randy Gacos’ death when his “cutting hose caught fire” was definitely preventable. I would imagine that the victim was allowed to do his “hotwork” without any work permit. It is standard procedure in the construction industry that nobody is allowed to do a job without the work permit, and the work permit requires the preparation of the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). The JHA would have provided that a worker is required to install flashback arrestors on his acetylene and oxygen hoses to prevent the “flashback” or “backfire” of the lighted torch. If there was a work permit, the inspection of the equipment was not properly done before the work was initiated.

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Thirty-seven deaths in one facility within only eight years of operation are outrageous and shameful. Yes, the country needs the facility as our people need the jobs, but the deaths due to poor safety management are despicable and unacceptable.

I know there are hundreds of subcontractors at Hanjin and they also subcontract their contracts; thus subcontracting goes down several tiers such that safety measures required of first-line contractors are ultimately lost in transition. To address the issue on a long-term basis, I suggest the following:

FEATURED STORIES

1. The Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) should work together with the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) and develop a safety program for Hanjin. Apparently, its present safety management system is not working.

2. The BWC/OSHC should tap the support and help of the Safety Organization of the Philippines Inc. and of various safety consultants to conduct a safety audit and a gap analysis on Hanjin and to develop corrective actions.

3. Reactivate the Department of Labor and Employment-initiated safety patrol and focus on Hanjin alone.

4. Assign a DOLE representative dedicated to Hanjin and holding office inside the Hanjin facility to monitor if Hanjin properly implements the corrective actions and complies with relevant local regulations.

According to the Oct. 12, 2010 issue of the Caritas Filipinas Foundation, accidents occur every week due to poor safety and precautionary standards. In 2008 alone, 5,000 work-related accidents were recorded, including 19 cases of death in the shipyard.

Unless drastic and dramatic steps are done, the deaths will never stop.

“Our workers have the right to return to their family in the same condition as when they reported in the morning.” An oft-repeated mantra in workplace safety.

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—VIR M. FLORENDO,

ehsconsultant6[email protected]

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TAGS: employment, Hanjin, Korea, labor, Letters to the Editor, opinion
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