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Employer’s 2022 Guide to DOLE Occupational Safety and Health Standards Against COVID-19

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

  • Motivated employees because they feel cared for

  • 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.

Reduce transmission.

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.

Reduce contact.

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.

Contact Tracing

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.

COVID-19 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 workP20,000
Not providing safety signages and devicesP30,000
Failure to provide safety personnelP40,000
Not providing free PPE to workersP50,000
When the violation exposes worker to death or a serious illness/injuryP100,000

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

  • Fire Safety

  • Industrial Ventilation

  • Managing Emerging Health Issues

  • Crane Inspection and Rigging Safety

  • Industrial Hygiene

  • Safe Use of Chemicals at Work

  • Accident Investigation

  • 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].

Searching for your next candidate to add to your healthy and happy workforce? Update your company profile in JobStreet and access the Talent Search page. Last but not the least, visit our Inspirations page for more expert advice about employment and your business.

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