Issue No. 7: DOLE D.O. No. 178, S.2017: Gender Equality on Occupational Safety & Health Matters
On September 9, 2017, the Department of Labor and Employment (“DOLE”) published D.O. No. 178, dated 25 August 2017, otherwise known as “Safety & Health Measures for Workers Who By the Nature of Their Work Have to Stand”. This issuance will cover retail and/or service employees, assembly line workers, teachers and security personnel and others, who by nature of their work, have to stand for long periods at work, or are frequently required to walk.
Quite notably, this latest DOLE Order does not refer to women workers alone. It is gender sensitive enough to include any employee and worker regardless of his/her sex, thereby, providing gender equality, so to speak. It is totally unlike the 1974 Labor Code provision whose scope is limited and which applies only to employment of WOMEN, thus: “provide seats proper for WOMEN and permit them to use such seats when they are free from work and during working hours, provided they can perform their duties in this position without detriment to efficiency.”
And what are some of these DOLE prescribed safety and health measures? For those which require their employees and workers to wear high-heeled female shoes and/or whose nature of work, requires standing for long periods, or frequent walking, they have to provide rest periods to break or cut the time spent on standing or walking, or perhaps, implement the use of footwear either flat or with low heels that must be wide-based or wedge type and no higher than one (1) inch to make standing or walking comfortable. In particular, where walking is frequent, these employers and establishments can install flooring or mats made of, say, rubber or wood in order to mitigate the impact and prevent fatigue. On the other hand, where standing is required for long hours, such security personnel, assembly line workers or sales ladies, they can provide tables or work surfaces with adjustable heights to allow these workers to alternately sit and stand while performing their tasks. Another measure may include providing accessible seats to these workers such as small foldable stools which can easily be stowed away so as not to hamper the work area. These workers may use these foldable stools during rest periods, or even during working hours, provided the employees can perform their duties in this position without detriment to efficiency.
The DOLE believes that standing at work for long periods, especially wearing high-heeled female shoes or frequent walking, causes considerable strain on the lower limbs; aching muscles; hazardous pressure on hip, knee and ankle joints; and sore feet. Thus, the need for appropriate control measures to address the risk to safety and health of workers. This Order requires all employers and establishments, to notify its respective DOLE regional offices not later than October 24, 2017 of its compliance with the DOLE prescribed safety and health measures. No one should ignore this Order; otherwise, the DOLE can visit the employer and establishment concerned in the exercise of its visitorial and enforcement powers. This power includes the authority of the DOLE to order stoppage of work or suspension of operations of any unit or department of such establishment when non-compliance therewith, poses grave and imminent danger to the health and safety of workers in the workplace.
(If you have any question, please feel free to contact Ms. Pinky Mante/Trustee-In-Charge, Atty. Jeff Marquez & Mr. Jojo Cinco, Chair & Co-Chair, respectively, 2017 LabRel Committee)