A total of 6,775 participants benefitted from the nine episodes of the MagOSH-UP Tayo! Webinar series launched by the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) in May of this year. The webinar series already has nine episodes on various OSH issues and concerns.

The four episodes held this August featured the Telecommuting Act and ergonomics, penalties for violations of the RA 11058 and DOLE Department Order (DO) No. 198-14, Asbestos and DOLE DO No. 154-16 and testing of construction heavy equipment. Some 3,204 participants attended via Zoom while hundred more joined via Facebook live.

Mr. Nicanor Bon, chief of the Policy and Program Development Division of the DOLE Bureau of Working Conditions discussed the provisions of RA 11165 or the Telecommuting Act which aims to protect the rights and welfare of workers in alternative work arrangements being implemented especially in this time of pandemic. Mr. Bon mentioned that fair treatment requires that telecommuting workers must receive wages and related benefits not be lower than those in applicable laws, be given rest days and holidays, and have the same workload, performance standards, access to training and career development, and collective rights as their counterparts who work in company premises. He also stressed that the telecommuting program is offered by employers on voluntary basis, or as result of collective bargaining agreements mutually agreed upon by employers and workers.

Maria Beatriz G. Villanueva, MD, chief of the OSHC Health Control Division discussed the need to fit to the worker and how spending a lot of time working in poor conditions leads to health challenges. She said that problematic workstations common in work from home setups coupled with poor postural habits can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

Dr. Villanueva discussed the common work from home workstation problems such as sub-optimal workstations (couches, beds, and kitchen countertops), chairs without armrests, hard edges on desktops and surfaces, and being in static postures due to lack of routine breaks. She also shared the proper workstation set-up which includes ensuring that: the top of the monitor is at eye level (this may be aided by using a laptop riser), the monitor is directly in front of the user, light is controlled to avoid glares and reflections, and the monitor should be at an arm’s length distance to avoid eye strain.

Using an external keyboard and mouse as well as an ergonomic chair will maximize adjustability. Ergonomic chairs must have an adjustable height, right seat depth, lumbar support, and five spokes for stability. A rolled towel may help provide lumbar support while a foot stool may help keep feet flat for proper blood circulation. Dr. Villanueva also emphasized the importance of taking regular breaks after 1-2 hours of work by changing position or doing tasks away from the computer, standing and doing simple exercises.

Episode 7 featured a lecture on the penalties and sanctions for violations of the RA 11058 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations – the DOLE DO 198-18. Dr. Marco Antonio Valeros, reiterated the provisions of these two issuances which include the duties of both employers and workers as well as other persons involved in undertakings (builder/contractor, suppliers, etc), rights of workers, risk classification of establishments, OSH programs, OSH committee, duties and responsibilities of safety officers, and sufficient OSH personnel, training, and facilities. He also discussed the penalties to wilful violations of the above mentioned provisions which range from P20,000 to P100,000 per day of non-compliance.

Engr. Melba F. Marasigan, senior industrial hygienist of OSHC discussed the various types of asbestos, asbestos containing materials, threshold limit values of asbestos exposure, and what an asbestos safety and health program should include. She also discussed the personal protective equipment for workers handling asbestos, work environment assessment, training, access to occupational health services, reportorial requirements, and monitoring.

Episode 9 featured a lecture on the testing of construction heavy equipment. Engr. Lawrence C. Blas, engineer II of the OSHC discussed the Rule 1410 of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards which contains provisions on testing lifting appliances and hoists, the DOLE DO No. 13-98 on the guidelines on OSH in the construction industry, and the accreditation of construction heavy equipment testing organizations being conducted by the OSHC.

More episodes of the MagOSH-UP Tayo webinar series will be held after the NOSH Congress to raise awareness on safety and health issues, government issuances and practical tips to improve safety and health in the workplace.

END/ DJ Romero