Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are advised to continue keeping their workers healthy and the workplace safe to weather the pandemic and gear for the new normal.
“The implementation of workplace safe measures during the crisis situations will really reduce the negative economic impact of the pandemic in the sustainable manner,” said Nelia Granadillos, acting Deputy Executive Director at Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Center of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Granadillos said under DOLE Department Order No. 198, MSMEs must develop and implement a suitable OSH program which shall be posted in prominent places in the workplace.
They shall also designate a trade safety officer and establish an OSH committee composed of the management, the safety officer 1, and a representative among workers in the workplace, she said.
Granadillos said the OSH Center has been providing free online mandatory OSH training courses to safety officers since the pandemic.
“We also shifted to online accreditation to OSH practitioners, consultants, safety training and consulting organizations, the WEM (work environment measurement) providers and the CHETO (construction heavy equipment testing organization). All of these processes of accreditation were provided online and we established networks with government and private institutions,” she said.
Granadillos cited the DOLE-DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) supplemental guidelines on workplace prevention and control of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
She underscored the need to increase the physical and mental resilience of the employees.
“Nutritious foods (is imperative). To be healthy, drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcoholic beverages… Have adequate rest and at least right hours of sleep, (these are) very good measures to increase resilience,” she added.
Granadillos also enjoined companies to give free medicines and vitamins to their employees, and provide psycho-social support to workers especially those with mental health concerns.
“Company policies on this prevention and control of Covid-19 should be aligned with the existing minimum public health standards and guidelines issued by the DOH (Department of Health) and other regulatory agencies,” she said.
To reduce transmission of coronavirus, Granadillos said companies need to clean and disinfect at least every two hours all work areas and frequently handled objects, such as door knobs.
She said MSMEs should also provide sufficient clean water and soap in all washrooms and toilets; and sanitizers in corridors, conference areas, elevators, stairways and areas where workers pass.
On the other hand, Granadillos said all employees entering the workplace shall be required to accomplish health declaration forms.
“It is important because this will help in the contact tracing especially if one is positive (of Covid-19), it is easier to identify his close contacts. There are contact details in the checklist and employers shall direct symptomatic individuals through the health system –there is barangay health center and there are telemedicine services online,” she said.
Teddy Monroy, National Programme Officer (Philippines) in the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said they expect industrial health and safety would be elevated in terms of operational priorities in the new normal.
“And these may include of course first additional health protocols that would be put in place. Social distancing measures will continue, alternative work arrangements which we are seeing at the moment taken by some enterprises, (and) more frequent digital interface… (There is also) an increased use of resources such as supplies, example PPEs (personal protective equipment) and also green facilities,” he said.