Workers and employers in the private sector must observe strict occupational safety and health (OSH) protocols to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 based on the Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 issued by the Departments of Trade and Industry and Labor and Employment.

On-line transaction must be promoted together with alternative work arrangements such as work from home, and shift rotations. Work from home is ideal for vulnerable workers which include senior citizens, women with high-risk pregnancies, and those with pre-existing illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other immune-compromising conditions. If face-to-face transactions cannot be avoided however, OSH measures must be in place. Workers must wear face masks at all times in their workplaces and they are allowed to take them off only during eating. Employers must provide appropriate face masks along with other necessary personal protective equipment (PPEs). Occupational health workers who will assess the workers and clients entering the establishments must be provided with medical grade PPEs such as N95 masks, gloves, goggles, and face shields.

Workers must have their temperature checked and must accomplish the health symptoms questionnaire before they can enter their workplaces daily. Those with temperatures above 37.5 °C even after a five-minute rest will not be allowed to enter and will be placed in an isolation area for further evaluation. These isolation areas must be properly ventilated and regularly disinfected. Vehicles entering the premises must also undergo disinfection.

Safety officers must ensure that a space radius of at least one meter between people is maintained both in the queues while waiting to enter their establishments and inside their premises. Work stations must be spaced accordingly and barriers may be placed to further protect workers from virus transmission.

The number of people in enclosed spaces such as conference rooms, elevators, and canteens/pantries must be limited. Meetings are encouraged to be done via video conferencing, while communal eating should be avoided. If eating in individual workstations is not possible, employers must ensure that the one meter physical distancing in dining areas is observed. Conversations during mealtimes are highly discouraged. Unidirectional movement in aisles, stairways, and all passages will also help prevent unnecessary physical contact between people.

Disinfection inside workplaces is key to preventing the spread of Covid-19. Frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, switches, phones, tables, and counters must be cleaned and disinfected every two hours. Washrooms must have clean running water and soap. Workers must be encouraged to wash their hands frequently and to avoid touching their faces. Sanitizers must be placed in strategic areas and workstations, canteens, and kitchens must also be disinfected regularly.

In case a worker is suspected to have Covid-19, the said worker must immediately proceed to the designated isolation area. Protocols for transporting suspected Covid-19 cases and PCR testing must be in place. Hospitals are responsible for reporting the results of PCR tests of the suspected cases to the Department of Health.

The workplace shall be decontaminated and may only be used again 24 hours after the decontamination. Workers present in the area with the suspected Covid-19 case shall undergo a 14-day quarantine with instructions for monitoring of symptoms.

In the event that a worker is sick or has fever but is not suspected to have Covid-19, he or she must be advised to stay home, rest, take plenty of fluids, practice personal hygiene, and to seek medical care should the illness progress.

Aside from PPEs, employers shall also provide other resources and materials which will keep workers healthy and Covid-19 free such as vitamins, training and education on disease prevention, and a Covid-19 hotline for employees to report any symptoms. They must also designate a safety officer to ensure that Covid-19 prevention and control policies of the company are being implemented. If feasible, employers must also provide shuttle services or decent temporary accommodations near the worksite to lessen the travelling and movement of people.

Workers, on the other hand, must follow the company’s anti-Covid-19 protocols and observe proper cough etiquette and hygiene.

Workplaces where workers are evidently at risk such as healthcare and other frontline facilities must comply with DOH Memorandum 2020-0178: Interim Guidelines on Health Care Provider Networks during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

END/ DJ Romero