Cooperators as well as representatives from different organizations gathered online to take part in the digital forum entitled “DTI-DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19” last June 12, 2020.
Moderated by Philippine Cooperative Centre (PCC) CEO Edwin Bustillos, the key resource person was DOLE Assistant Secretary Dr. Teresita S. Cucueco1 , who gave a very detailed rundown of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected businesses and the workforce. Vis-a-vis the rise in COVID-19 cases, Dr. Cucueco also stressed, through her presentation, the various measures, and guidelines that offices will have to impose on all workers and employees. These include:
• The wearing of face masks
• A daily health symptom questionnaire that needs to be answered
• The daily checking and recording of body temperatures, and
• The spraying of alcohol to both hands and the provision of footbaths at the entrance, if practicable.
The need for proper distancing was also given strong emphasis, to which Dr. Cucueco added:
• The physical distancing of one-meter radius space between workers at all times
• Discouraging communal eating
• Strictly maintaining physical distancing measures in canteens or dining areas and the need for the proper waste disposal and regular cleaning and disinfecting of canteens.
Other measures that she pointed out were:
• The unidirectional use of stairs, with physical distancing
• The deployment of roving officers or safety officers to ensure that physical distancing and health protocols are strictly observed
• And the need to utilize online systems for clients needing office assistance, such as the use of teleconferencing. Inside offices, there is also a need to redesign the workspace through the rearranging of tables and chairs to maintain proper distancing, the need to maintain unidirectional movement in aisles, walkways, and corridors, and limiting the number of people in enclosed spaces; which include elevators.
At this point when there is a need for employers to show more responsibility to assure the welfare of their employees, Dr. Cucueco also listed Duties of Employers which have to be followed, namely:
• the provision of company policies for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in consultation with workers, which will include advocacy and IEC programs from reliable sources
• the provision of resources and materials such as face masks, disinfectants, PPEs and testing kits that will assure workers of safe, sanitary workplaces • the designation of a safety officer to monitor COVID-19 prevention and control measures
• the need to enhance health insurance provisions for workers • the provision of shuttle services and/or decent accommodation on near-site locations to lessen travel and people movement, when feasible
• the need to enjoin hiring from local communities and
• the need to put up a COVID-19 hotline and call center for employees (photo taken during the Q&A) Not to be outdone are the Duties of Workers/Employees that include:
• strict compliance with all workplace measures in place for preventing and controlling COVID-19 such as the wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and frequent handwashing
• observing proper respiratory etiquette such as covering mouths and turning aside away from others when coughing or coughing and sneezing into tissue or shirt sleeve
• disposing of used tissues properly
Alongside with this is the need for offices to observe proper health and hygiene measures such as decontamination of the workplace with the proper disinfectants. After decontamination of the work area, work can resume within 24 hours, and for those workers who are suspected for COVID-19 must undergo home quarantine for 14 days. There is also the need for vehicles and equipment entering the operational hub to be disinfected and physical distancing of one meter or more on a queue outside the store or office premises should be observed.
There was also, the ‘what ifs’ discussed in case a worker is a carrier of COVID-19; the best and most effective things to do are:
• for the worker to immediately proceed to the designated isolation area and never remove his/her face mask Page 3 of 3 DTI-DOLE INTERIM GUIDELINES ON WORKPLACE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF COVID-19
• that clinic/medical personnel attending to the workers must always don the proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and, if needed, require the transport of the affected worker to the nearest hospital whereas PCR testing shall be done and results reported to the DOH/Department of Health by the hospital
But what if the worker falls ill but has a fever but not COVID-19? What Dr. Cucueco advised are for the employer to advise the worker to take prudent measures to limit the spread of the communicable disease by staying at home and keeping away from work or crowds/ taking adequate rest and plenty of fluids / and practicing personal hygiene to prevent the spread of disease.
But for abiding by the rules is not the only means to help reduce the risks of COVID-19. Dr, Cucueco equally emphasized for us, as individuals to adopt a holistic approach to keeping ourselves healthy with everyday actions such as:
• eating nutritious and well-prepared meals
• drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcoholic beverages
• having adequate rest with at least eight hours of sleep and
• exercising regularly
She also enjoined the companies to provide free medicines and vitamins as well as referrals for workers needing counseling or presenting with mental health concerns.
Amidst the rate of COVID-19 infections taking place, how can data for those who contracted this pandemic not be revealed? Dr. Cucueco mentioned that the data is only for a screening if COVID positive. Yet there will still be strict adherence to data privacy and confidentiality as a means to protect the ‘sensitivity’ of the patient. She also called for caution for senior citizens, who may be prone to this pandemic, to limit their movements. It would be best if they would stay at home—or when needed, work from home, and delegate tasks to their younger kin, such as buying their necessities outside. Just as doctors and medical experts are exhausting all efforts to come up with the most effective remedies to combat this pandemic, perhaps the best that all of us can do is to abide by all the above mentioned measures for both our good and for the good of our fellow officemates.
Moreover, as suggested by Dr. Cucueco if there is a need to do office work from home, so be it—as this is the safest and healthiest solution at this point. And with many of us having smartphones, laptops and other online gadgets, online training can be conducted, along with more and more of these teleconferences.
(photo ops with resource speaker)
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