The lock down brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, made people work from home to maintain business as usual. And while this set up could remain an option for those who don’t feel comfortable returning to the office,most of us has to embrace the ‘new normal’ once we’re mandated to trek back to the office. In this light, the Department of Labor and Employment released guidelines to be followed to cut spread COVID-19.
To reduce the transmission of COVID-19, workers and employers in the private sector will be mandated to observe strict health protocols as the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) remain in effect.
In the Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 signed by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, workers and employers will be required to follow total precautionary measures as the country grapples with the containment of the deadly COVID-19.
“Before entering the workplace, all employers and workers must have face masks, and it must be worn at all times and remove the same only when eating/drinking,” Bello said.
Employers shall provide the appropriate face masks for workers, according to the guidelines.
All are also required to accomplish daily health symptoms form, undergo temperature check, and have them recorded in the health symptoms questionnaire.
The employer must provide the DOLE through its Regional Office, copy furnished DOH, the monthly reporting of illness, diseases, and injuries utilizing the DOLE Work Accident/illness Report Form (WAIR).
As a rule, if a worker has a temperature of > 37.5°C, even after a 5-minute rest, or if his response in the questionnaire needs further evaluation by the clinic staff, the person shall be isolated in an area identified by the company and will not be allowed to enter the workplace premises.
Clinic staff assigned to assess the workers held in the isolation area shall be provided the appropriate medical grade PPEs by the establishment which shall include but not limited to, face masks, goggles/face shields, and or gloves.
Disinfection must also be done for equipment or vehicle entering the establishments, including facilities, and touched objects, such as doorknobs and handles, at least once every two hours.
On top of observing at all times physical distancing, proper respiratory etiquette and disinfection protocols, eating in communal areas are also discouraged, and if this is not possible, the employer shall ensure a one worker per table and one-meter distance per worker scheme.
Workers are also discouraged to engage in conversation, as well as prolonged face to face interaction with workers and clients.
Meetings needing physical presence must also be reduced or avoided.
Private establishments are also mandated to implement alternative work arrangements, such as working-hour shifts, work from home (WFH), where feasible, and on a rotation basis.
If feasible, employers must also provide shuttle services and/or decent accommodation on near-site locations to lessen travel and people movement.
A worker suspected of having COVID-I9 must be brought to the nearest hospital if needed.
Bello also reminded that the guidelines mandate companies to put up a COVID-l9 Hotline and Call Center for employees to report if symptomatic.
“Employers may test workers for COVID-19. Testing kits used and procured shall be the responsibility of the employer,” Bello said.
Most ‘at risk’ workers and vulnerable groups, or those 60 years old or of any age with co-morbidities or pre-existing illness, such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or with immunocompromised health status; or with high-risk pregnancy are encouraged to do work from home arrangement.
A work agreement is required to be developed by employers which would detail the deliverables from these employees and there shall be no diminution in wages or benefits.
The guideline is aligned with the minimum health standards of the Department of Health.