Given the nature of their job, garbage collectors, street sweepers and individuals working in disaster areas should be afforded the right to protect themselves from being exposed to hazardous and infectious materials.
Sen. Nancy Binay, in filing Senate Bill No. 2083, noted the lack of existing guidelines and programs addressing the plight of these individuals.
"The hazardous working environment faced every single day by garbage collectors, individuals assigned in disaster areas and those who work in dumpsites exposes them to various health and safety risks," she said.
"This bill seeks to protect the health and safety of individuals working in dumpsites or assigned in disaster areas by providing concrete guidelines that shall be observed and implemented in disaster area operations and dumpsite activities," said Binay.
Proposed to be known as "Individuals' Health and Safety Act," SB 2083 mandates the provision of gloves, masks and other proper protective equipment, including periodic medical check-up for those involved in garbage collection or working in dumpsites and disaster areas.
Unless they are properly equipped with safety gears and proper protective equipment, Binay said no individual should be allowed to work in dumpsites or disaster areas in order to protect them from any airborne toxins and health risks during clean-up operations where hazardous materials and infectious chemicals are present.
The senator also included a provision requiring the said workers to undergo a regular medical check up to ensure that their health and safety are not prejudiced.
The proper government agencies or private corporations or entities that employ them shall provide for the necessary fund to finance the cost of medical attention or intervention that may be needed, Binay said.
Binay also proposed to ban the use of open garbage trucks.
Contractors or entities engaged in garbage collection in Metro Manila and other parts of the country shall have to place all collected garbage inside closed containers, she said.
Binay likewise called on the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other concerned offices to come up with a set of comprehensive guidelines specifically for responder or clean-up crew to be deployed to any rescue or clean-up operations in disaster areas where presence of hazardous and infectious materials shall place them at greater risks.
This is to ensure that responders and clean-up crews are subject to a full environmental assessment, properly informed of the environmental hazards they may face in their work, provided proper training in handling toxic materials and protective equipment and receive proper immunization if necessary and appropriate, the senator explained.
A fine ranging from P200,000 to P500,000 will be meted against anyone found guilty of violating any provisions of the law, including revocation of necessary license to operate as regards private entities.
Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler