The mandatory occupational health and safety training in workplaces will be offered to workers and enterprises for free starting this year, the labor department said on Sunday.

The new policy is pursuant to the directive of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to enhance workplace health and safety, and ease the burden on micro, small and medium businesses amid the impact of the Covid pandemic.

In issuing the directive to the Occupational Safety and Health Center, Bello emphasized the need to ensure the health and safety of the workers and employees to boost productivity as the economy reopens gradually.

“We are waiving the training fees being charged to micro and small businesses. The workers in those enterprises have to be assured of their safety and health while at the workplace. This is a big factor to their productivity,” Bello said.

The labor chief added: “This is also a form of assistance to our MSMEs being hardest hit by the restrictions due to the pandemic.”

The OSH law or Republic Act 11058 makes it mandatory to designate and train safety officers in all business establishments, the number of which corresponds the number of employees in enterprises. A fee of P5,500 per trainee is fixed by OSHC for the safety training.

In March 2019, the DOLE required establishments to follow OSH-related guidelines after the issuance of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the OSH Law released in January of the same year.

In the guidelines, DOLE said “Providing safety seminars and training to workers is an empowering way of building and sustaining a preventative occupational safety and health culture which results in enhanced productivity at workplaces.”

Under the guidelines, all establishments “are encouraged to immediately conduct mandatory workers’ OSH seminars for all workers/employees at no cost to the workers and attendance at such seminar shall be considered compensable working time.”

The OSH Law states that it is the duty of employers, contractors, and subcontractors to inform their workers about the hazards and risks involved in the occupation entered in and provide appropriate job instruction and orientation regarding OSH.

The OSH Law also states that all workers are required to attend an eight-hour OSH seminar which should include a joint employer-employee orientation on safety and health standards.

DOLE said it is the responsibility of establishments to determine their risk classification based on the Hazards Identification and Risk Assessment and Control (HIRAC). Levels of classification are low-risk, medium risk, or high risk.

The results of the HIRAC and the number of workers shall be bases for determining the required minimum number of safety officers, OH (occupational health) personnel, medical services and facilities.