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04 December 2008

Hanjin Subic refused DOH safety training offer

Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Phils. Inc., which has been plagued by work site deaths and injuries, has rejected the "standing offer" of the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) to provide more safety training to its thousands of workers, the head of OSHC said.

OSHC executive director Dr. Dulce Estrella Gust said OSHC gave training to workers of Hanjin and its subcontractors last September.

After that initial session, OSHC has offered to continue the program to inculcate to the workers the value of health and safety.

Gust said OSHC, which is attached to the Department of Labor and Employment, insisted on a continuing health and safety program because shipbuilding is a very, very dangerous industry.

She added that OSHC could not cultivate the culture of safety in the workplace in one or two sessions.But Hanjin refused the offer to have OSHC conduct follow-up trainings, Gust said.

"They told us that they want to finish 10 ships first," she said. "We offered it, we wrote straight to the president of Hanjin, but they declined."

Hanjin, she noted, makes about two vessels per year in its Subic base."It's unfortunate that they have this kind of attitude," Gust said.

There are around 12,000 to 15,000 workers in the Hanjin shipyard in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Since the company opened its shipbuilding operations in the Philippines in 2007, 17 workers have died in the workplace, DOLE said.

In the past two weeks, two more workers were killed and three others were injured in separate incidents in the site of one of Hanjin's subcontractors.

Pyeong Jong Yu, the company's deputy managing director, had stressed that the incidents were not related to shipbuilding work.

Gust said the number was "high," considering the industry and the length of time Hanjin was operating in Subic. "It's really worrying," she said.

Hanjin should also ensure that its contractors adhere to safety standards, she added.The Labor department has expressed alarm over the rising number of workplace deaths in the Hanjin shipyard.

Last September, DOLE instituted a zero-accident program in the Hanjin site.The program entails that Hanjin institute a system that would correct, update, and disseminate information on potential hazards and risks to its workers especially the newly hired ones. (Kristine L. Alave - Philippine Daily Inquirer)

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