Groups Push for Workers’ Protection against Occupational Diseases

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino
(BMP) and the EcoWaste Coalition today appealed for concerted action that will protect
the nation’s workforce against occupational diseases.

In a joint statement to mark the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work,” the
groups echoed the call by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for a holistic
prevention-focused action to address the growing burden of occupational

According to the ILO, some 2.34 million people die each year from work-related
accidents and diseases of which an estimated 2.02 million people die from a
wide range of work-related diseases.

“Our workers need not suffer from occupational diseases as they toil in
construction sites, factories, landfills, farms, mines and other work
places.  There must be an effective way
to prevent work-related ailments and deaths that will uphold the workers’
health rights, especially for those employed in hazardous jobs,” said Josua
Mata, Secretary-General of APL. 

“With the participation of the workers and their unions, the cooperation of the
employers and the genuine enforcement of labor laws and standards, we’ll
prevail over old and new occupational health maladies,” he added.

Gie Relova, Secretary-General of BMP for the National Capital Region, said that
“occupational diseases pose a real burden for workers and their families many
of whom are already having troubles in making both ends meet.”

“The government should institute effective programs that will tackle the root
causes of such diseases and provide workers with accessible and adequate
support.  Protecting workers’ health
against occupational diseases is our collective responsibility,” he said.

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, warned
that “if we do not act with urgency and resolve, workers who are engaged in
dangerous jobs and exposed to harmful chemical substances might end up joining
the global estimate of 5,500 deaths daily due to occupational diseases.”

“We ask the government to generate and disclose data on occupational diseases,
including sex-disaggregated data, to help our society fully understand the
problem and the steps needed to prevent them,” he suggested.

“As a group advocating for zero waste and chemical safety, we want our workers
protected from all hazards that can ruin their health, productivity and future,”
he emphasized.

The ILO report, “The Prevention
of Occupational Diseases,” pointed out that over two million workers die yearly,
or an average of 5,500 deaths daily, due to work-related diseases. The ILO also
estimates that 160 million cases of non-fatal work-related diseases occur

ILO warned that millions of workers continue to be at risk of pneumoconioses
due to

exposure to silica, coal, asbestos and that their associated illnesses (e.g.,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, TB, cancer) often cause disability and
death. Asbestos-related diseases include
asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The ILO also noted that new forms of occupational diseases such as
musculoskeletal and

mental health disorders  are
increasing without adequate preventive, protective and control measures.

ILO is calling for a comprehensive “paradigm of prevention” that focuses on
occupational diseases and not only on injuries.

“This new paradigm must underscore a set of principles: that just because the
problem is difficult to tackle, it cannot be ignored; that the recognition,
prevention and treatment of occupational diseases as well as the improvement of
recording and notification systems must be high priorities; that enhancing
national safety and health programmes is essential to the health of both
individuals and the societies they live in,” the ILO explained.