Companies are advised to implement the prescribed minimum health standards as part of the “new normal” brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, as more businesses are allowed to open and operate.
Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire said compliance with the minimum health standards is one of the conditions given by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease to the different sectors to go back to work.
Vergeire said these pertain to increasing physical and mental resilience, stopping transmission, reducing contact, and shortening the duration of infection.
“For engineering and administrative controls, these are a must for the different workplaces so the workplace should be properly disinfected, ventilated and maintained. So we all know that there is a protocol that everytime that we use a certain place, we should have regular disinfection because we all know that surfaces can also be contaminated and can also be a risk for infection for the workers, she said during the 3-part General Membership Meeting of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT) on June 9.
Vergeire said workplaces and offices must provide visual reminders about safety policies.
“So in our protocol, we also have requested or recommended that workplaces should have a safety officer who can monitor the employees and also is in charge of doing these different safety policies in the workplaces,” she added.
Vergeire said alternative working arrangements should be adopted, including working from home or flexible working hours.
She said they should have also appropriate policies on having paid sick leaves and medical coverage like if the worker has been infected and has to go on quarantine.
Vergeire said it is also imperative for workplaces to have referral hospitals or clinics where they can bring their sick employees so they can be checked after symptoms are identified.
“What would be most important would be your daily screening of your employees. It is not enough that we screen our employees at the start of resumption of the work. You need to have a safety officer who will be able to check all your employees, screen them everyday, and those with symptoms should immediately be extracted in the population of employees,” she added.
Vergeire further said they need to have a reporting system where employees also can voluntarily report that they do not feel well so that they can also be immediately isolated.
The safety officer likewise has to monitor the enforcement of this new normal within and outside the offices like physical distancing and the constant wearing of masks of employees and other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) if needed, she added.
Vergeire also cited the importance of hand hygiene and cough etiquette in the workplace to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
“So these minimum public health standards were issued and we are trying to inform everybody, mass information, that this is very important. We have to embrace the new normal so that people will imbibe into their daily lives and they try to prevent it for their transmission,” she said.
For the screening, she said the DOH is recommending the conduct only of symptoms screening, noting it is not cost effective to test all the employees.
Vergeire said employees showing symptoms 14 days prior to the day they are screened are not allowed to physically return to work, and have to be isolated and tested.
“Now there would be employees that would present to you quarantine certificates that they have been cleared and had already finished quarantine, or they would have this medical certificate coming from their local governments, and they can already go back to work,” she added.