The death of five people and injuring of 154 other workers, excluding the four who were critically injured, after the bunkhouse they slept in collapsed on top of them at a construction site in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, last Tuesday is yet another in a long line of fatal construction accidents that could have been avoided if the contractors had been more vigilant and careful in ensuring the welfare of their workers.
In allowing them to stay at the bunkhouse that was supported by poles and metal clamps, project engineer Butch Abaya of the construction firm J.E. Abraham C. Lee Construction said it had been standard practice for them to build bunkhouses made of these materials, and they haven’t encountered any problems until that fateful Tuesday incident.
But there were warning signs that the bunkhouse the workers slept in was unstable with security guard Amancio Aguhob Jr. saying that he observed that the structure would sway on one side.
That would have been fair warning to both the workers and the contractor and with more than 100 workers sleeping inside a structure that stood only on poles and clamps, the least that could have been done was to ensure its stability.
But what was galling was the discovery by the City Legal Office that the contractor had been doing business in Cebu City without a business permit since 2001. How it was able to do so only the Office of the Building Official can answer that.
Last Tuesday’s tragedy was not an isolated case for J.E. Abraham C. Lee Construction as it also lost a worker who died after a concrete wall collapsed on him while he was doing welding work at their construction site in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City, two years ago.
Though their projects were suspended, it remains to be seen if a work stoppage order will be issued against the contractor for last Tuesday’s tragedy since it didn’t involve a building but the bunkhouse the workers stayed in.
But one need not be a genius in order to put two and two together and see that J.E. Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Inc. had a dismal safety record for its workers not to mention failing to provide benefits for some of them.
One can only wonder how many more contractors and subcontractors also fail to provide safety gear and institute safety measures for their workers to avoid losses of life.
Cebu City Hall needs to examine the OBO’s records to see if they are doing their job right and to penalize them for allowing such contractors to continue to operate even without a business permit.
Last Tuesday’s tragedy is a telling testament about the negligence of local governments in requiring contractors to ensure the safety and well-being of their workers, at a time when a construction boom in Metro Cebu means more profits and revenue for them.