The labor department has issued new guidelines on the proper ventilation of workplaces and public transportation to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.

Signed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on March 3, Department Order 224-21 spells out fresh rules for private establishments and public transport.

The set of guidelines include the installation and utilization of exhaust fans in indoor workplaces, restrooms and water closets; ventilation in air, rail, land, and sea transport, and other measures to improve and maintain the quality of air in the workplace and public transportation.

“Adequate ventilation should be strictly enforced inside the workplace,” the order states, as properly maintained ventilation within a building and other indoor workplaces eliminate contaminated air and reduce the risks of exposure to potentially virus-contaminated air.

For non-air-conditioned spaces, the guidelines recommends maximizing natural ventilation through the use of doors, windows, and other openings. If natural ventilation is not feasible or inadequate, mechanical ventilation shall be provided.

For air-conditioned spaces and Heating, Ventilation, and Air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, the outdoor air supply should conform to the recommended breathing zone ventilation rates for air dilution and comfort control. The said ventilation system is also recommended to be utilized for at least 30 minutes before and after spaces are occupied.

Furthermore, strategies were also recommended for restrooms and water closets which includes making sure that exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied. When toilets/ water closets are used, it is advised to close the toilet bowl seat lid before flushing, if available, to minimize the release of droplets into the air due to flushing.

Bello said proper ventilation in the workplace is as important as the observation of minimum public health standards inside workplaces and public transport.

The guidelines will cover all commercial and industrial establishments, projects, sites and all other places where work is being undertaken indoors, except healthcare facilities which require special considerations or stricter rules in the COVID-19 control.