Stricter health protocols in the workplace
Inter-agency Task Force Resolution 61, s. 2020 issued on Aug. 6, ratified the technical working group’s adoption of the Department of Health-Department of Labor and Employment-Department of Trade and Industry joint supplemental guidelines on minimum health protocols in the workplace to further ensure the safety and health of employees in the private sector and for the guidance of all concerned.
The joint memorandum circular applies to all private establishments regardless of economic activity, including those located inside special economic zones and other areas under the jurisdiction of investment promotion agencies like the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Clark Development Corporation, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, and Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport.
The new work protocols require large and medium-sized private companies to offer shuttle service, as well as mandatory establishment of temporary isolation facilities, for employees with Covid-19 symptoms. Large and medium-sized private establishments are those with assets above P15 million.
In reducing the transmission of Covid-19, it is mandatory to wear a face shield and face mask when interacting with colleagues, customers, and clients. Visor-type face shields are not allowed.
Employers classified as large and medium-sized private establishments are enjoined to provide shuttle service to their employees and the minimum public health standards should be enforced in these shuttle services.
Employees inside the vehicle should be required to avoid talking with each other, taking phone calls, eating, and removing their masks and shields. “No talking,” “No eating,” and “No taking phone calls” signages should be displayed or posted on a conspicuous area in the vehicle. All vehicle types, as long as not expressly prohibited by the Department of Transportation through an issuance, may be used as shuttle service.
The JMC requires all workplaces to have handwashing stations, soap and sanitizers, and hand drying equipment or supplies (e.g. single use paper towel) made available to employees and clients/visitors.
Frequent handwashing with soap and water or application of alcohol-based disinfectants is mandatory in all workplaces. It should be placed in strategic locations in the workplace.
Adequate ventilation should be strictly enforced inside the workplace where the natural air flow exchange (opening windows, opening doors, turning off air-conditioning units to reduce air recirculation) is highly encouraged. When inside the shuttle service, windows should be open by at least three inches while in transit whenever possible.
Employers should also provide their employees with psychosocial support, especially those presenting mental health concerns. If this is not available, a referral system to mental health specialists must be in place, through establishment of a network with either an accredited health facility or telemedicine services, or through the National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 0917-899-8727 (0917-899-USAP) and (02) 7-989-8727 ((02)-7-989-USAP).
Meanwhile, senior citizens, pregnant women, individuals with underlying health conditions or those at most-at-risk population to Covid-19 in the workplace and those below 21 years old are advised to continue to observe work-from-home arrangements.
Companies are also enjoyed to follow the restriction on mass gatherings, i.e. only 10 percent of seating capacity for meeting rooms in high/moderate-risk areas (e.g. confined spaces) and a maximum of 50 percent seating capacity for low-risk areas (e.g. open areas). Video conferencing shall always be used for meetings needing large attendance of employees and/or for meetings lasting longer than 15 minutes.
Employers shall adopt staggered meal schedules to further restrict contact among its employees. Eating alone in the workstation is highly encouraged while dining in canteens may be allowed provided that employees strictly comply with physical distancing of at least one meter and prohibited from talking with each other.
Employees are required to accomplish the Health Declaration Form (Annex A-1), or any digital iteration thereof, upon entering the building premises/workplaces. The security staff or other responsible personnel shall immediately screen the accomplished form and perform a temperature check.
Frontline and economic priority workers, defined as those who work in high priority sectors, both public and private; have high interaction and exposure to the public; and who live or work in special concern areas may be tested every three months.
Section 4.14 of the DOH Memorandum 2020-0258-A states “all testing facilities shall utilize the appropriate PhilHealth benefits and/or any benefit provided by health maintenance organizations or private health insurance for Covid-19 testing to reimburse the cost of testing.