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The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has always placed the health and safety of our country’s workers as its topmost priority.  With this in mind, it has issued the “Safety and Health on the Use and Management of Asbestos in the Workplace” (Department Order No. 154 s 2016) on April 21, 2016. The scope and coverage of this promulgation includes all activities which expose workers to asbestos in the workplace.

The Order is replete with provisions on Hazard Identification and Control, Education and Training, Access to Occupational Health Services, Medical Surveillance, Post-retirement medical monitoring, Reportorial-requirements, Compensation and Rehabilitation, Monitoring Compliance, and Penalties for non-compliance.

One major improvement of the said policy is the lowering of the occupational exposure limits from 2 fiber per cubic centimeter to a Threshold Limit Value of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter. This will ensure the protection of workers involved in the handling of asbestos and asbestos containing materials. The said Department Order shall take effect within fifteen days after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation.

The issuance of the Order somehow eased the tension on the never ending debate on whether to ban asbestos or not. While the country is on a continuous lookout for a safe substitute, the DOLE never turned a blind eye in its mandate for the workers’ right to safe and healthful working conditions. The said Order ensures primary and secondary prevention as well as compensation for workers that may become sick because of their exposure to asbestos and asbestos containing materials.

 Incidentally, the timing of the signing policy corresponds to The World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work. It was held on 28 April and has been observed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 2003.

A national occupational safety and health culture is one in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention.   

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