‘Put construction workers’ safety first’

Tough Gear.  President and CEO Michael Bandalan (right) of Asia Pacific Safety and Industrial Supply Inc. and Administration and Finance Manager Rosette Bandalan take questions about workplace safety in their store in Mandaue City.  (Sun.Star Foto/Amper Campaña)

GOVERNMENT urged the construction industry, one of the country’s fastest growing sectors, to attend to the safety and health of its workers, saying these should reflect how construction has grown.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and a trader who advocates for workers’ safety made this call in light of the work-stoppage orders issued recently to some construction projects in Cebu.

Asia Pacific Safety and Industrial Supply Inc. president and chief executive officer Michael Bandalan, in a recent talk with Sun.Star Cebu, said that companies with construction projects should make sure that they provide personal protective equipment to construction workers, being the most vulnerable people on site.

The most recent accident caused the death of two construction workers and injured 11 others, after a portion of a condominium building under construction in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig collapsed last Feb. 4.

In Cebu City, labor officers of DOLE 7 caught laborers in the construction site of the Visayas Community Medical Center on Osmena Blvd. working allegedly without a harness or fall-arrest system. That caused DOLE to issue a stoppage order last Feb. 6.

Further assessment by DOLE revealed other alleged discrepancies, like the lack of an approved structural analysis on the monkey ladder used as scaffolding for exterior work; the absence of an approved Construction Safety and Health Program; the lack of a safety officer; and the lack of a Philippine Contractors’ Accreditation Board (PCAB) registration.

“The data being gathered by the LLCOs (labor laws compliance officers) after the JA (joint assessment) conducted clearly showed the management’s laxity in implementing DOLE Department Order No. 13, otherwise known as the Guidelines Governing Occupational Safety and Health in the Construction Industry,” said DOLE 7 Assistant Regional Director Joel M. Gonzales in a statement.

In December last year, the DOLE 7 also issued stoppage orders to AS Enriquez Engineering Consultancy/ASEC Development and Construction Corp./FLB Corporate Center Project in the Cebu Business Park, Cebu City; the SM Hypermart construction project in the Mactan Economic Zone 2 in Basak, Lapu-lapu City; and the Chong Hua Hospital project/paintworks in Fuente Osmena, Cebu City.

But while the safety of workers is the main consideration for companies to invest in personal protective equipment, Bandalan said that productivity is also another important factor.

“When workers feel comfortable and safe with what they are wearing, they are more productive than when they’re wearing substandard safety gear or, worse, nothing,” Bandahan said.

In the last five years since the construction industry in Cebu started to grow, Asia Pacific Safety has also grown 40 to 50 percent, on average, every year.

This growth is also supported by the shipbuilding, manufacturing and utilities sectors, the company said.

The number of walk-in clients has risen recently in Asia Pacific Safety’s office in Subangdaku, Mandaue City, ever since DOLE more strictly implemented the wearing of personal protective equipment in construction sites.

Bandala said it is the only company in Cebu specializing in personal protective equipment.

Its product lines include head protection, body protection, hand protection, safety shoes, chemical respirator, ear muff, and traffic safety, and are ordered from the United States, Australia and Canada.

One of its popular products is the Krushers safety shoes from Australia, which grants an insurance of P400,000 should the steel toe or the toe cap of the shoes fail to withstand the standard set at 200 joules.

Bandala also warned employers against providing substandard gear to workers. All of Asia Pacific Safety’s products, he said, are certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Center of DOLE.

Contrary to what many think, the price difference between substandard personal protective equipment and the authentic ones is minimal, he said.

In addition, as a way to promote safety in workplaces, Asia Pacific Safety also conducts safety training for free to companies, regardless of whether they are clients or not.

“I hope they (employers) are mindful that a person’s life is worth more than anything. Investing in personal protective equipment will surely give them peace of mind,” Bandalan said.

Within the year, Asia Pacific Safety plans to launch its online store, so it can serve its clients anywhere in the country. Aside from Cebu, it also has a branch in Manila and satellite offices in Iloilo, Bacolod and Davao.
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