Employer duties and responsibilities
What is the nature and extent of the employer's primary duty to protect workers' health and safety under the relevant legislation? How is this duty observed and interpreted in practice?
Under the Philippine Labor Code, Republic Act (RA) No. 11058 (the Occupational Safety and Health Law) (the OSH Law) and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), employers are mandated to:
- furnish the workers with a place of employment free from hazardous conditions that are causing or are likely to cause death, illness or physical harm to the workers;
- give complete job safety instructions or orientation to all the workers, especially to those entering the job for the first time, including those relating to familiarisation with their work environment;
- inform the workers of the hazards associated with the workplace health risks to which they are exposed, preventive measures to eliminate or minimise risk, and steps to be taken in the case of emergency;
- only use approved devices and equipment for the workplace;
- comply with Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS), including training, medical examination and, where necessary, the provision of protective and safety devices such as personal protective equipment and machine guards;
- allow workers and their health and safety representatives to participate actively in the process of organising, planning, implementing and evaluating the health and safety programme to improve health and safety in the workplace; and
- provide, where necessary, for measures to deal with emergencies and accidents including first-aid arrangements.
Does the employer owe a duty to protect the health and safety of third parties? If so, what is the nature and extent of this duty?
Relevant regulations do not explicitly mention that the employer must ensure the health and safety of people that are not employed by it. However, the employer is mandated to maintain a safe workplace. Thus, it can be argued that the employer must at least ensure that the workplace poses no danger to any person within the premises.
What is the nature and extent of the employer's duty to ensure safe work premises?
The OSH IRR defines a workplace as any site or location where workers must be present or go to because of their work, and that is under the direct or indirect control of the employer, including, but not limited to, work areas, employee lounges and restrooms, conference and classroom spaces, employee cafeterias, hallways and emergency access.
The employer is required to equip the workplace free from hazardous conditions that are causing or likely to cause death, illness or physical harm to the workers. Accordingly, the OSHS requires the employer to provide the necessary facilities, such as:
- adequate fire, emergency or danger signage and safety instructions of standard colours and sizes to be visible at all times;
- provisions for handicapped employees;
- good housekeeping;
- personal facilities, such as adequate comfort rooms and lavatories, adequate changing rooms for female workers and locker rooms for male workers; and
- a first-aid treatment room or clinic.
Under the OSH IRR, whenever two or more undertakings are engaged in activities simultaneous in one workplace, it shall be the duty of all concerned to collaborate and cooperate to ensure compliance with the OSHS.
Plant and equipment
What are the employer's duties and responsibilities regarding the provision of safe plant and equipment?
The employer must provide first-aid medical services, steps must be taken to prevent danger to the workers from any live electric cable or equipment either by rendering the cable or apparatus electrically dead or by providing barriers to prevent contact, and all moving parts of machinery used shall be guarded. Fire protection equipment and personal protective equipment must also be provided by the employer.
Work systems, training and supervision
What are the employer's duties and responsibilities regarding the provision of safe work systems and adequate training and supervision?
An employer must establish an occupational safety and health committee (OSH committee) that is entrusted with preventive functions and is responsible for advising the employer and the workers, in the establishment or undertaking of the following:
- the requirements for establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment that will facilitate optimal physical and mental health concerning work; and
- the adaptation of work to the capabilities of workers in the light of their state of physical and mental health.
Specifically, the OSH committee shall have the following responsibilities:
- identification and assessment of the risks from health hazards in the workplace;
- surveillance of the factors in the working environment and working practices that may affect the worker's health, including sanitary installations, canteens, and housing where these facilities are provided by the employer;
- advice on planning and organisation of work, including the design of the workplace, on the choice, maintenance and condition of machinery and other equipment, and substances used at work;
- participation in the development of programmes for the improvement of working practices as well as the testing and evaluation of the health aspects of new equipment;
- advice on occupational health, safety and hygiene, and on ergonomics and individual and collective protective equipment;
- surveillance of workers' health concerning work;
- promoting the adaptation of work to the workers;
- collaboration in providing information, training and education in the fields of occupational health, hygiene and ergonomics;
- organising first-aid and emergency treatment; and
- participation in the analysis of occupational accidents and occupational diseases.
Accident response and reporting
What rules and requirements govern employers' response to and reporting of workplace accidents?
All employers are required to submit to the Department of Labor and Employment an employer's work accident or injury report (WAIR) for every accident or illness, and an annual work accident or injury exposure data report (AEDR).
What rules, requirements, procedures and best practices should employers be aware of when conducting occupational risk and hazard assessments?
Under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Labor Advisory No. 4 series of 2019, the establishment shall be responsible for determining its own level of risk classification (low, medium or high) based on a Hazards Identification and Risk Assessment and Control (HIRAC) conducted by the company. HIRAC results and the number of workers shall be the basis for determining the required number of safety officers, occupational health personnel, medical services and facilities.
Disclosure and reporting requirements
Are employers required to submit regular health and safety reports to the relevant authorities? If so, what is the nature and extent of this requirement?
All employers, contractors or subcontractors, if any, shall submit to DOLE all health and safety reports and notifications such but they are not limited to an annual medical report, OSH committee report, employer's WAIR and annual work AEDR.
Provision of information to workers
What requirements apply regarding the provision of health and safety information to workers?
Under the OSH Law and its IRR, workers have the right to know. This right ensures that the workers shall be appropriately informed by the employer about all types of hazards in the workplace, and be provided access to training, education and orientation on chemical safety, electrical safety, mechanical safety, ergonomics and other hazards and risks.
All workers, including new hires, must be provided training and information for all types of hazards in the workplace in a language and dialect that workers can understand.
What insurance must employers carry to cover liability for occupational health and safety risks?
All employees under 60 years of age are required to be covered under the government Employees' Compensation Program designed to provide a compensation package to employees and their dependents in the event of work-related sickness, injury, disability or death. Further, employers are also required to enrol their employees in, and make contributions to, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation for financial assistance in the case of hospitalisation.
Other duties and responsibilities
Are employers subject to any other notable health and safety duties and responsibilities in your jurisdiction?
There are no other notable health and safety duties and responsibilities.
Originally published at Lexology by the International Law Office (30 July 2021).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.