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Protecting your employees: New workplace health and safety guidelines against COVID-19

Protecting your employees: New workplace health and safety guidelines against COVID-19

Safeguarding the health of the employees in the workplace is one of the main priorities now that more businesses are allowed to operate in areas under GCQ and MECQ. To protect both employees and employers from the private sector, the DOH, DTI, and DOLE issued guidelines to prevent and control the spreading of COVID-19 in the workplace. This article aims to simplify and consolidate the guidelines from the Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 which you may freely access to read the full version.

However, employees under non-essential industries should not be forced to go to their workplace. If working on-site is necessary, minimum health protocols and standards should be implemented using these guidelines.

A. PROMOTE AND PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE 

  1. Remind workers to take care of their physical health;

  • a) Eat nutritious and well-prepared meals;

  • b) Drink plenty of water;

  • c) Avoid alcoholic beverages;

  • d) Sleep for at least eight (8) hours; and

  • e) Exercise regularly

  1. Provide free medicines and vitamins; and

  2. Provide referral for employees needing counselling for possible mental health concerns.

B. REDUCING TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19

1. Traveling to and from work

  • a) If possible, to lessen travel and exposure to different places, companies shall: 

    • i. Provide shuttle services for employees commuting to work; and/or

    • ii. Provide decent accommodation on near-site location.

Employers who are unable to provide shuttle services cannot force employees to go back to work and should not resume operations.

2. Before entering the workplace 

  • a) Wear facemasks

    • Employers shall provide appropriate face masks for employees to be worn at all times except when eating or drinking. Washable cloth masks are allowed but shall be worn with additional filters such as tissue papers inside the masks.

  • b) Answer daily symptoms questionnaire

    • It includes checking and recording of temperature. Submit to the guard or assigned safety officer before entering.

  • c) Assign isolation area and clinic personnel for:

    • People with a temperature higher than 37.50, even after a 5-minute rest and showing health concerning results from the questionnaire.

  • d) Provide appropriate medical supplies:

    • i. PPEs to clinic personnel which may include by not limited to face masks, goggles/face shields, and gloves;

    • ii. Provide spray alcohol or sanitizers at the entrance;

    • iii. Provide disinfectant footbaths at the entrance if practicable; and

    • iv. Disinfection of all equipment or vehicles entering the operational area;

  • e) Physical distancing

    • Assign roving officers to monitor and require physical distancing of a minimum of 1-meter for long lines outside the office or store premises.

3. Inside the workplace

  • a) Disinfection

    • For all work areas and frequently handled objects such as doorknobs and handles at least once every (two) hour.

  • b) Washroom and toilets

    • Ensure regular disinfection and enough supply of clean water and soap.

  • c) Frequent hand washing

    • Encourage employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • d) Provide sanitizers

    • Ensure sanitizers are placed in corridors, conference areas, elevators, and other areas where employees usually pass.

  • e) Practice social distancing

    • All employees should practice physical distancing of a minimum of 1-meter radius space (side, back, and front) between other workers.

  • f) During and after eating:

    • i. Recommend eating in individual work area. If not possible, employers shall ensure physical distancing is implemented in dining areas with one worker per table and 1-meter distance per worker;

    • ii. Discourage talking to co-workers with masks off while eating;

    • iii. Require cleaning and disinfecting of able and chairs after every use of the area, and before as well as at the end of the workday;

    • iv. Canteens and kitchens should be cleaned and disinfected regularly; and

    • v. Observe proper waste disposal.

C. MINIMIZE CONTACT RATE 

1. Alternative work arrangement

Use work-hour shifts, work from home (WFH), where feasible and work rotation may be implemented. Most at-risk workers and vulnerable groups shall be allowed to work from home.

2. Meetings

Discourage face-to-face meetings and interaction between employees and clients are but if necessary, shall be kept to minimum number participants and masks shall be worn at all times and not removed. Videoconferencing shall be utilized for lengthy meetings.

3. Workstation

The layout should be designed to allow single direction movement in aisles, corridors, or walkways.

4. Enclosed areas

Maintain physical distancing of 1 meter by limiting the number of people inside an enclosed space such as elevators. Use stairs as an alternative and if there are more than two stairways, use one stairway exclusively for going up and another one exclusively for going down.

5. Utilize online systems 

Use videoconferencing to assist client needs from offices.

6. Assign roving officers

For monitoring of physical distancing and observance of minimum health protocols.

D. ON REDUCING THE RISK OF INFECTION FROM COVID-19 

1. If an employee is suspected of having COVID-19:

  • a) Isolation

    • The worker shall be put in the isolation area and never remove his/her mask.

  • b) PPEs

    • Clinic personnel attending to the employees should wear appropriate PPEs.

  • c) Transport to hospital

    • Clinic personnel may require the transport of the COVID-19 suspect worker to the nearest hospital.

  • d) Use company protocols

    • There should be company protocols for the transport of suspected COVID-19 cases and for PCR testing.

  • e) Public health authorities

    • Notify the concerned authorities about the employees showing symptoms of COVID-19.

  • f) Contact tracing

    • Conduct contact tracing in coordination with the DOH and LGUs for employees exposed to COVID-19.

  • g) Decontamination of the workplace:

    • i. Appropriate disinfection shall take place in the workplace (e.g. chlorine bleaching solution and 1:100 phenol-based disinfectant);

    • ii. Work shall only resume 24 hours after disinfection;

    • iii. Employees present in the work area with the suspect COVID-19 worker shall undergo 14 days home quarantine with specific instructions from the clinic staff on monitoring symptoms and possible next steps; and

    • iv. If suspect COVID-19 worker tested negative, co-workers can report back to work.

2. If a worker is sick or has a fever but is not suspected of COVID-19 (diseases that are related to not lungs or respiratory tract) The employer must advise the worker to take the following safety measures to avoid the spread of communicable diseases:

  • a) Stay at home and avoid crowds;

  • b) Take adequate rest and drink plenty of liquids;

  • c) Practice personal hygiene; and

  • d) Seek appropriate medical care if symptoms persist.

3. COVID-19 Hotline and Call Centers Employers shall put up a hotline for employers to report any possible COVID-19 symptoms and to monitor the condition of suspected employees.

E. COVID-19 TESTING 

1. Procurement of Testing Kits 

  • a) It is up to the employers if they choose to test their employees for COVID-19; and

  • b) Employers are responsible in procuring the testing kits.

2. Testing Protocols 

DOH Protocols shall be followed for the testing of employees and interpretation of results in accordance with:

3. Company Policy 

There should be a company policy on COVID-19 testing agreed upon by employers and workers in compliance with the DOH protocols.

Employers have a crucial role in protecting their workers and these guidelines provided a clear direction on how they can do that in the workplace. Some companies have shown significant efforts in caring and providing for their people. Some may still choose to give other work arrangement options such as work from home which has its advantages and there are ways on how employees can stay productive even in this kind of setup. Whatever the strategy may be, now is certainly the time for companies and employers to prove that they will continue to put their employees’ health and safety first.

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