Tibaldo: On Safety and Occupational Hazard Standards

MY SIMPLE and straightforward comment in social media about the recent fire in Baguio got some people fired up if not irked and as it drew more reactions from netizens, it ultimately became educational in a way and it leads to the point that I was trying to inject.

Last Saturday on our way to the midday birthday party of Manong Des Bautista at Rose Bowl along Upper General Luna Road, my wife and I saw a billowing smoke covering Baguio’s skyline and the conflagration was pinpointed to be at the Engineer’s Hill area. What immediately came to my mind then was a catastrophic scenario caused by weekend traffic along the area and the narrow roads that fire trucks could hardly maneuver.

Observing from an opposite vantage point, it was clear that no ladder or boom truck was used and photos of the scene posted in social media attests that plain human force was employed for the fire suppression.

Smaller penetrator trucks of the Baguio Fire Department and fire brigades siphoned water from water delivery services with the aid of volunteers.

The photo posted by media colleague Mau Victa of a fireman without a helmet hosing a fire with only his lower firefighting getup caught my attention and I simply remarked “No helmet and firefighting coat”.

A remark by a certain Steve West says, “ I would say this is not the correct time or place for criticism.”

Few moments after, netizen Joseph Fernandez commented "Di niyo alam gaano kainit sa loob ng fireman's outfit. So itatalna yu” saying that I should shut up as I do not know how it feels to be wearing a fireman’s outfit in that situation.

The commenter who appears to have studied at the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy as reflected in his personal data followed with a question.. "Have you even tried donning a fireman's suit? With full gear? With Compressed air breathing apparatus? Alam mo ba gaano kabagal ang mobility mo kapag nakasuot ka nun? At alam mong kumakalat ng mabilis ung apoy. You should try fighting a fire sometimes before criticizing the ones doing it. Peace."

With his word “criticizing”, I realized that this fellow who must be in a cruising vessel thought that I just posted a comment just to criticize like what others do in social media. Well, I am not that KSP and I cannot just shut up especially if I have a basis to point out my contention.

Still on the same post by Mau that already went viral, I pointed out the non-use of helmet and firefighting outfits as a non-conformity to a standard in safety and occupational hazard. In my reply to Joseph Fernandez, I said that I've been into difficult situations myself and I consider the fireman's task as one of the most difficult especially under fire and I also know that most firemen are prepared to "sweat it out" in situations like this.

The use of a breathing apparatus is on a per-needs basis which is not really a must after the fire had been suppressed. I also wished Fernandez all the best in his fire fighting career because apparently, he has experiences in such difficult task. There are FB users who praised the fire officer caught in action and there are those who agreed that we should all shut up.

I have written about safety and occupational hazards before and I’d like to share once again what was stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) of the Department of Labor and Employment Philippines as Amended in 1989.

Under the Safety Rules of OSHS No. 1013 on Hazardous Workplaces, it says that the following are considered hazardous workplaces: (1) Areas where the nature of work exposes the workers to dangerous environmental elements, contaminants or work conditions including ionizing radiation, chemicals, fire, flammable substances, noxious components and the like;

(2) Areas where the workers are engaged in construction work, logging, fire fighting, mining, quarrying, blasting, stevedoring, dock work, deep-sea fishing and mechanized farming;

(3) Areas where the workers are engaged in the manufacture or handling of explosives and other pyrotechnic products; (4) Areas where the workers use or are exposed to power driven or explosive powder actuated tools and (5) Where the workers are exposed to biologic agents such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoas, nematodes, and other parasites.

Under SOHS’ General Provisions, it states that every worker shall cooperate with the employer in carrying out the provisions of the standards. He shall report to his supervisor any work hazard that may be discovered in his workplace. Every worker shall make proper use of all safeguards and safety devices furnished in accordance with the provisions of the SOHS for his protection and that of others, and shall follow all instructions given by the employer in compliance with the provisions of said standards.

I believe that a trained and experienced firefighter knows what is reflected in the SOHS rule on Abatement of Imminent Danger that imminent danger is a condition or practice that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm before abatement under the enforcement procedures can be accomplished.

For me, it’s time to again check the fire extinguisher at home and find out if the powdery contents inside can still be shaken. If it has solidified, then it is time to have it refilled by a BFP authorized service center. It is also good idea to have a bucket and a drum of water ready but be very careful not to splash on live electric lines during fires. Switch off the power first.
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