15 June 2009

Hanjin safety compliance cited

Efforts by South Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. Philippines (HHIC-Phil) to improve health and safety conditions at its shipyard in this free port has resulted in a safer workplace for its more than 16,000 workers.

According to officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), who have been monitoring work safety at the Hanjin facility, the ship manufacturer has started complying with local labor laws on safety standards.

“I think much have been done since (the Congressional Committee on Labor and Employment) started its investigation, because safety awareness of all concerned at the shipyard has been raised already to a certain level,” said Nathaniel Lacambra, DOLE director for Region 3.

Lacambra noted these observations during a recent hearing of the congressional committee chaired by Rep. Magtanggol Guinigundo, which has started an investigation on labor safety at the Hanijn shipyard in Subic following complaints of unsafe working conditions that have resulted in several fatal accidents since 2007.

The committee has so far invited officials from DOLE-Region 3, SBMA, and HHIC-Phil, as well as engineers from the Professional Regulatory Commission, among others, to shed light on safety issues and other labor concerns.

But Lacambra said that the DOLE, along with representatives from professional health and safety organizations, has already conducted labor standard inspections at the Hanjin shipyard and found that some of the hazards at the work place have been already eliminated.

“The DOLE, SBMA, Hanjin and other concerned agencies and organizations, have been doing their share in making Hanjin a safer work place,” Lacambra added.

In the same forum, Ramon Agregado, SBMA deputy administrator for support services, informed the committee that based on partial reports, Hanjin is already 44 percent compliant in terms of Occupational Health and Safety Standards (OHHS) as of June 2009.

The current rating marks an improvement from the 42 percent recorded in March, Agregado added.

The SBMA official also noted that aside from gradually undergoing the compliance process for OHSS as required by DOLE, Hanjin has already began maintaining doctors at its clinic in the shipyard.

Meanwhile, Rep. Monico Pontevela (Bacolod City) commended Guinigundo’s committee for the positive effect that its investigation has had on the working conditions of employees at the Hanjin shipyard.

“I have to commend the Chair (Guinigundo) of this committee, because since the investigation started, there has been no more news about fatal accidents at the shipyard. This could only mean that there has been some improvement in the safety situation at the Hanjin facility,” Pontevela said.

The latest fatality was recorded on Saturday last week when the body of Teodoro Alvior Jr. was fished out of the sea at Hanjin’s Quay No. 3. Initial investigations pointed, however, to a case of suicide.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza had earlier urged investigators to exhaust all means in determining the exact cause of Alvior’s death and ascertain whether the victim’s death “was not caused by any negligence on the part of his employer or the shipyard management”. (SBMA Corporate Communications)