The heat wave spreading across the nation has brought into sharp focus labor safety standards, especially for those involved in outdoor work.
Local meteorological authorities have raised the heat alert level since the mercury is expected to linger above 35 C for a few days more. Avoiding outdoor activity is among the measures official media have recommended to prevent heatstroke. Yet, for workers who toil under the sun, there is little choice but to endure the severe heat. In fact, neither the 1960 regulation on heatstroke prevention nor its 2007 amendment has been specific regarding employers' responsibilities towards workers during such times.
The 1960 rules stipulated workplace conditions, medical guarantees and allowances for work during hot summer days. But, it covered only the industrial production, transportation and construction sectors.
Employer responsibilities spelt out in those documents did include heat-avoidance measures at workplaces, adjustments to work hours, and subsidies for work during the scorching summer. Their provision, however, has rested on employer discretion.
In the absence of solid legal safeguards, deterring abuse by employers has been inconsistent. If workers have got some degree of protection from the sizzling heat, it has largely been a matter of luck, not one of right. The rules must be tweaked to ensure that workers in all sectors get equal protection.
The regulations ought to be specific about employer responsibilities - any loophole must be plugged to prevent employers from discharging their duties with respect to protection of workers from weather hazards.