The Departments of Trade and Industry and Labor and Employment yesterday signed the Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of Covid-19. The supplemental guidelines require more stringent measures in terms of strengthening mental health, personal protective equipment, disinfection, worker education on preventing the spread of Covid-19, preventing close contact, entrance protocols, testing, contract tracing, and management of cases.

The use of face shields are now part of the minimum public health standards for  all employees who report for work physically must wear face shields at all times when in riding in shuttles or public transport and when interacting with colleagues, clients and visitors. The face shield must cover the entire length of the face including the sides, and if possible should extend to the ears below the chin. Visor type shields which only cover half of the face or only the eyes are prohibited.

The guidelines also states preference for medical grade face masks and prohibition of the use of masks with vents. If cloth masks will be used, these should have provisions for insertion of additional filters, must be clean and washed daily. The filter should also be replaced daily or after every sneezing or coughing episode. Masks and filters must be properly disposed after use and hands must be washed/disinfected thoroughly.

Personnel manning company isolation areas are required to wear disposable gowns, face shields, medical grade masks, and gloves before attending to a symptomatic employee.

Worker education on protocols to curb the transmission of Covid-19 within workplaces is also prioritized. Awareness-raising on infection prevention through webinars or virtual trainings are now mandatory. Emphasis is also given on displaying signages to constantly remind employees to wash hand properly and frequently, disinfect their work stations, avoid sharing personal items.

Mass gatherings of any kind are prohibited in all workplaces. Mass gatherings are defined based on the risk qualification of the workplace locality – only 10% of the seating capacity is allowed in high risk areas like for closed rooms and a maximum of 50% seating capacity for low-risk areas. Video conferencing must be used for meetings needing large attendances or those which will last for more than 15 minutes.

Staggererd mealtimes must be adopted to further restrict worker contact in eating areas and eating alone in workstations is highly encouraged. Contact with customers should be limited to less than 15 minutes.

All employees shall be required to accomplish the Health Declaration Form (HDF) and will undergo screening upon entering workplaces. A “yes” answer in any of the questions on the HDF or a temperature above 37.5 °C is basis to place the concerned employee in the isolation area. Symptomatic employees will be referred to primary health care facilities such as Barangay Health Centers, infirmaries, private clinics, hospitals, or telehealth consultation services. Access to telemedicine services are required to be made available to all employees regardless of work arrangement.

Large and medium private establishments are mandated to designate at least one isolation room for every 200 employees separate from the company clinic and situated near the entrance for employees needing further assessment. The isolation area must have adequate ventilation, PPEs for both health personnel and patients, chairs and a dedicated restroom. This must be disinfected every two hours.

Employers are also required to ensure strict compliance to the contract tracing protocols of the DOH and LGUs. Close contacts of employees with confirmed positive RT-PCR test results must undergo a 14-day quarantine and closely monitored during this period. close contacts who remain asymptomatic for 14 days may return to work without need for a test.

Employers are encouraged to collaborate with the national and/or local government I terms of testing facilities and to regularly send their employees for testing at no cost to the employees.  Under the expanded testing strategy of the DOH, priority workers shall undergo the RT PCR Test. Workers in the tourism sectors identified and declared by Department of Tourism must undergo testing once in every four weeks. Those who must undergo testing once every quarter include workers in: manufacturing companies and public service providers in economic zones in Special Concern Areas, transport and logistics, food retail, education (engaged in face to face classes), finance services, non-food retail, services, construction, markets, water supply, sewerage, waste management, mass media, and public sectors.

In case a confirmed case of Covid-19 is detected in the workplace, the facility shall be disinfected with an appropriate disinfectant and must be placed on lockdown for 24 hours prior to disinfection. All doors and windows must be opened during disinfection. The building may only be opened 24 hours after the disinfection process.

END/DJ Romero