The Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry jointly issued the guidelines 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 in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
These include mandatory wearing of face masks in buildings and workplaces, accomplishment of daily health symptoms questionnaire to be submitted to the guard-on-duty or safety officer, temperature checks, use of alcohol/sanitizers, and putting of disinfection booths or foot baths in workplaces, if possible.
All work areas and frequently touched objects such as doorknobs and handles shall be cleaned and disinfected regularly, at least once every two hours and all washrooms and toilets shall have sufficient clean water and soap, Workers are also encouraged to wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth and workers shall always practice physical distancing with a minimum of one meter. Eating in groups is discouraged and canteens should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Employers are highly encouraged to allow employees considered as most at risk and vulnerable to continue with their work-from-home arrangement. These employees are those aged over 60 years old, employees with pre-existing illnesses, or employees with high risk pregnancy.
Full cooperation between employers and workers in observing the new protocols is a necessary element in transitioning the workplaces into the new normal where work agreements should be developed to detail the deliverables from these employees and there shall be no diminution in wages or benefits.
Also, employers may test workers for Covid-19 and the test kits used and procured shall be the responsibility of the employer. A company policy on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing shall be formulated and agreed upon by employers and workers in conformity with the Department of Health protocols in testing of workers and interpretation of results.
In case a worker is suspected to have Covid-19, the worker shall immediately proceed to the designated isolation area and never remove his/her mask; and if needed, be transported to the nearest hospital for PCR testing. There should be company protocols for transport of suspect Covid-19 cases for PCR testing.
Employers should craft company policies for the prevention and control of the Covid-19 in consultation with workers; provide resources and materials needed to keep the workers healthy and the workplace safe; designate the safety officer to monitor Covid-19 prevention and control measures; enhance health insurance provision for workers; where feasible, provide shuttle services and or decent accommodation on near-site location to lessen travel and people movement; enjoin the hiring from the local community; and put up a Covid-l9 hotline and call center for employees to report if symptomatic, and daily monitoring scheme of Covid-19 suspect.
Employees, on the other hand, shall comply with all workplace measures in place for the prevention and control of Covid-19, such as compliance to thermal scanning; frequent hand washing; wearing of masks and observing physical distancing; observe proper respiratory etiquette; coughing and sneezing into tissue or into shift sleeve, if tissue is not available; disposing used tissues properly; and disinfecting hands immediately through proper washing with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer immediately after a cough or sneeze.
In workplaces with imminent danger situations where the workers are evidently at risk of infection such as in health care and other frontline services, the employer shall comply with DOH Memorandum Order 2020-0178 or the Interim Guidelines on Health Care Provider Networks where workers in such workplaces must take extra precautionary measures which include strict hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment such as N95, gowns and gloves properly worn while at work and disposed accordingly after use.
The guidelines shall apply to all workplaces, employers, and workers in the private sector to develop minimum health protocols and standards in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and employers are required to provide DOLE through its regional office and copy furnished the DOH, monthly reporting of illness and diseases using the DOLE work accident/illness report form.
The guidelines were signed on April 30 by DOLE Sec. Silvestre H. Bello III and DTI Sec. Ramon M. Lopez.
For more information on the DOLE-DTI guidelines, visit www.dole.gov.ph and www.dti.gov.ph.
END/Patrick T Rillorta