The recent figures of the Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 tracker as of April 5, 2021 basing on the new cases in the past fourteen (14) days by date of onset of illness, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) ranked number five (5) among the seventeen (17) regions in the archipelago. The Region with the highest new cases is the National Capital Region (NCR) with 63,793; second, Region 4A (Calabarzon) with 20,818; third is Region III (Central Luzon) with 11,727; and Region II (Cagayan Valley) with a total of 5,353 cases.  For the Cordilleras now has a total of 22,386 COVID 19 cases with 3,759 active, 18,314 recoveries and 307 deaths.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a number of new challenges, especially for businesses looking to reopen. While managers and employees may feel a sense of urgency to get their business back to normal as soon as possible, there are new guidelines and revised practices that should be followed to allow for a safe, stable return. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have been issuing measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 that apply to all workplaces and all people at the workplace. Following all these protocols will prevent the worker from bringing home the virus to our homes and our loved ones.

The Interim Guidelines aims to assist private institutions that are allowed to operate during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in developing the minimum health protocols and standards. The minimum health standards aim to ensure workplace safety and health by: Increasing physical and mental resilience to ensure all workers stay healthy; reducing transmission of COVID-19; reducing the risk of infection from COVID-19.

To achieve these objectives, the following minimum health standards will be strictly observed. First, to reduce transmission of COVID-19, all employers and workers must wear face masks at all times; second, temperature checks will be conducted prior to entering buildings or workplaces; Regular disinfection of workplaces and frequent hand washing will also be observed. To implement this, spray  alcohol/sanitizers and disinfectant foot baths will be made available;  all washrooms should have sufficient  clean water and soap to encouraged  frequent washing; and all work areas and  frequently handled objects will be cleaned  and disinfected regularly, at least once every two hours.

In workplaces, proper physical distancing should be strictly followed (minimum one (1) meter radius space) between workers to be practiced to reduce transmission and minimize contract rate; maintain physical distancing; workspaces will be re-arranged; workstation layout be designed to allow for unidirectional movement in walkways; encourage use of stairs; limit number of people in enclosed space; online systems and videoconferencing are also highly encouraged and roving officers will be present to ensure these protocols are practiced.

Along with the minimum health standards, it is necessary for employers to provide policies towards prevention and control of COVID-19 in consultation with workers.  Advocacy and IEC programs should be taken from DOH, World Health Organization and other reliable sources.

Workers should also be provided with resources and materials such as masks, soap, sanitizer, disinfectant, Personal Protective Equipment’s, and COVID-19 testing kits; companies to designate a Safety Officer who will monitor COVID-19 prevention and control measures; and to enhance their health insurance provision for workers.

Where feasible, employers should provide shuttle services and/or decent accommodation on near-site location to lessen travel and people movement.  Employers are also enjoined to hire from the local community.  Companies to put up a COVID-19 Hotline and Call Center to be able to monitor symptomatic employees; and have a daily monitoring scheme of “suspect” employee condition.

On the other hand, workers are expected to comply with all workplace measures in place for the prevention and control of COVID-19. They also need to strictly observe proper respiratory etiquette; and practice proper coughing, sneezing, and disposal of used tissues as well as washing and disinfection of hands.

As a simple reminder to everyone, safety refers to the physical or environmental conditions of work which comply with prescribed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Standards and which allow the workers to perform the job without or within acceptable exposure limit to hazards. Occupational safety also refers to practices related to production and work process while health means a sound state of the body and mind of the workers that enables the worker or employee to perform the job normally. Keep safe everyone.

end/Patrick Rillorta