Employer’s 2022 Guide to DOLE Occupational Safety and Health Standards Against COVID-19
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) promotes safety and health at the workplace. Specifically, this is done through the expertise of the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC). Founded in 1987 through Executive Order 307, OSHC focuses on preventing illness and injury at job sites.
In a nutshell, here are OSHC’s duties:
Studies occupational safety and health
Develops and offers training programs
Monitors job sites
Conducts medical examination of employees
Sets standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety gear
Sets guidelines to prevent accidents at work
Additionally, OSHC is made up of experts trained in health and safety fields. As a result, you can consult OSHC to keep your workplace out of harm's way.
Prioritizing health and safety in your company shows great HR leadership. Also, it lets you enjoy these benefits:
Less risks and accidents in your workplace
Less employees being absent due to injury or infection
Increased work productivity
Less compensation claims due to accidents
Avoiding penalties from the OSHC
Protecting Workers Against COVID-19
COVID-19 is a risk for employees. According to the Reuters COVID-19 tracker, around 50.2% of the population have been fully vaccinated against COVID as of January 2022. With the new year, some businesses are now requiring work-from-home employees to report on site.
However, no one is completely safe from the virus. Employee exposure to COVID-19 depends on the following factors:
Number of cases in your job site’s community
Nature of your business
Your employees’ individual health conditions
Your compliance to minimum health standards
Employee activities outside work
Part of OSHC’s duties is to help the government make policies on occupational health. Thus, it also seeks to prevent the spread of diseases like COVID-19 in the workplace. This is vital especially with the new variants. One of these is Delta, which is believed to have caused the surge in the Philippines starting in July 2021.
Currently, the latest variant of concern is Omicron which emerged in November 2021. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “People who have previously had COVID-19 could become re-infected more easily with Omicron.”
On March 11, 2021, DOLE posted Advisory No. 21-01. Simply put, it calls on businesses to strengthen health and safety standards. The advisory was released specifically because of the new COVID-19 variants. In fact, DOLE mentioned government orders as references, which JobStreet breaks down for you.
1. DOH Administrative Order 2020-0015, Series of 2020
What it’s about: Guidelines on health standards for managing COVID-19
How it can help you: It gives ways to prevent COVID-19 in offices and workplaces. These include:
Boosting physical and mental health.
Make sure your employees have enough food, water, and sanitation on the job site. If necessary, provide them with lodging and transportation. It is your duty as well to care for your employees’ mental well-being.
Through info campaigns, remind employees to practice frequent handwashing. Also, discourage them from touching their eyes, noses and mouths. In line with this, equip your office with enough sinks, water, soap and alcohol. Furthermore, regularly disinfect your workplace, including door knobs and switches.
Remind employees to maintain physical distancing. This is especially important in crowded areas like cafeterias. Likewise, prohibit mass gatherings and limit non-essential travel.
Reduce duration of contact.
Have a system in place to immediately identify symptomatic workers. In particular, practice temperature scans, symptom self-monitoring, and voluntary disclosure. Right away, you should isolate anyone with symptoms. Also, trace close contacts.
2. DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-04-A
What it’s about: DTI and DOLE’s guidelines on workplace prevention and control of COVID-19
How it can help you: It guides you in handling infected employees through the following:
Remote Management of Cases and Close Contacts
Give employees access to medical services. For instance, this can be done through your in-house doctor, teleconsult, HMO, or the barangay.
Isolation and Referral
Large or medium businesses should have one isolation area for every 200 employees. Furthermore, this area should be disinfected every two hours. Also, it needs a dedicated restroom.
Conduct contact tracing in your office to identify close contacts. Positive contacts must undergo quarantine. While doing this, quarantined employees should give updates on their health status. On the other hand, asymptomatic close contacts who are done with quarantine can return to work without testing.
Regularly test workers in transportation, food retail, education, financial services and construction among others.
Occupational safety and health committee
This committee is in charge of monitoring health standards in your workplace. Moreover, OSHC can train your people to evaluate your protocols. As a result, OSHC can give anti-COVID recommendations.
3. DOLE Department Order 198, Series of 2018
What it’s about: Guidelines on strengthening compliance with safety and health standards
How it can help you: It gives a detailed rundown of penalties for businesses that fail to comply. Here are some examples:
|Not giving safety instructions to employee prior to work
|Not providing safety signages and devices
|Failure to provide safety personnel
|Not providing free PPE to workers
|When the violation exposes worker to death or a serious illness/injury
4. DOLE Department Order No. 224, Series of 2021
What it’s about: Guidelines on ventilation for workplaces to control the spread of COVID-19
How it can help you: It gives detailed ways to improve air flow in your workspace. Some of these are:
Using exhaust fans indoors and in restrooms
Opening doors and windows for natural ventilation
Using HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems in air-conditioned areas
Doing ventilation 30 minutes before and after a space is occupied
Getting trained by OSHC
Make sure that your company is safe from disease as you prepare for the hybrid workplace. Thankfully, OSHC offers training programs, from mandatory business requirements to advanced training. In short, OSHC can help you create a healthier workplace.
Currently, these are the programs listed on the OSHC website:
Basic Occupational Safety and Health for SO1
Basic Occupational Safety and Health
Construction Safety and Health
Managing Emerging Health Issues
Crane Inspection and Rigging Safety
Safe Use of Chemicals at Work
Work Environment Measurement
For more information, you may call OSHC through (02) 8-929-6036 or (02) 8-929-6030. You can also email them at [email protected].