DOLE, DTI ink joint memo on Covid-19 prevention in workplaces

MANILA – Private sector employers are instructed to provide shuttle service to their workers who, in turn, are required to wear face masks and face shields and prohibited from talking while inside the company’s vehicle.

These new health safety protocols are specified in the Joint Memorandum Circular No. (JMC) No. 20-04, Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) signed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Friday.

Covered by the guidelines are private establishments regardless of economic activity, including those located inside special economic zones and other areas under the jurisdiction of Investment Promotion Agencies (e.g. Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), Clark Development Corporation (CDC), Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), and Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO), among others.

The companies that are enjoined to provide shuttle service are employers classified as large and medium sized private establishments (i.e. those with total assets above PHP15 million).

“Minimum public health standards should be enforced in the shuttle services, i.e. use of face shields and face masks, observance of physical distancing, and frequent disinfection. Employees inside the vehicles should be required to avoid talking with each other, taking phone calls, eating and removing their masks and shields,” it said.

“Signages of “No Talking,” “No Eating,” and “No Taking Phone Calls” should likewise be displayed or posted on the conspicuous areas in the vehicle. All vehicle types, as long as not expressly prohibited by the DOTr through an issuance, may be used for shuttle services,” the JMC added.

It said that company policies on prevention and control of Covid-19 should be aligned with the existing minimum public health standards and guidelines issued by the DOH and other regulatory agencies.

To reduce transmission of Covid-19, employees must wear face masks and face shields.

“Face shields and masks should always be worn together when interacting with colleagues, clients and/or visitors. Face shields may be removed according to the demands of the work or when the occupational safety and health of the employees so requires,” it said.

Also, the JMC reminded the workers to practice physical distancing of at least one (1) meter, or two (2) meters when possible. This must be practiced in combination with the wearing of masks and face shields.

It added that frequent handwashing with soap and water or the application of alcohol-based disinfectants shall be mandatory in all workplaces.

The JMC is requiring all workplaces to have disinfecting/washing resources, supplies/materials such as hand washing stations, soap and sanitizers, and hand drying equipment or supplies (e.g. single use paper towel).

It should be placed in the following strategic locations in the workplace: corridors or hallways, conference areas, elevators, stairways, points of entry, locker rooms, common areas (e.g. lounge, pantry, etc.), bathroom, canteen, personal workspace, company vehicles and shuttle services.

Employers shall 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, either through establishing a network with an accredited health facility, through 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 (MARP) for 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).

Videoconferencing 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.

Dining in canteens may be allowed provided that employees shall strictly comply with the physical distancing of at least one (1) meter and shall be prohibited from talking with each other.

For employees, they 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.

Also, employers are encouraged to collaborate with the national and/or local government testing efforts like drive-thru or walk-thru testing facilities.

The JMC which was issued on Friday added that the testing must be at no cost to the employees. Ferdinand Patinio / PNA –