Masks, Shields, Shuttle Services + What to Expect If You're Going Back to Work

The DTI and DOLE have released additional guidelines.

ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) With the GCQ back in place over Metro Manila, additional guidelines for workplaces have been released by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Labor and Employment. There are certain rules which should be followed for the "prevention and control of COVID-19" in work spaces, by both employees or employers in the private sector, as per Joint Memorandum Circular Number 20-04-A. So if you're heading back to the office any time soon, check out what to expect below:

In the office space

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First things first, while employers should make their workers' physical health a top priority, mental health shouldn't be forgotten either. "Psychosocial support" must be given. Companies can reach out to the National Center for Mental Health Crisis for help creating a referral system with specialists for those who need it. "Employers shall promote work-life balance," states the joint memo.

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Aside from having their temperature checked, employees will be required to fill out a Health Declaration Form—digital or not—as approved by the Department of Health before entering the establishment. Data collected through these forms will be used solely for contact-tracing purposes and should be submitted to Human Resources. It will only be kept for a maximum of 30 days and should be properly disposed of after.

Once inside, face masks and shields are also a must in the work space and should be worn together when "interacting with colleagues, clients, and/or visitors." Physical distance of at least one to two meters must be observed at all times. Frequent handwashing or disinfection must be practiced as well, with visual reminders and signs to do so put up in the office.  

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Lunch breaks and smoke breaks are also set to change. "Eating alone in the workstation is highly encouraged," stated the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) infographic. Staggered meal hours or alternate meal schedules to avoid having employees clumped together for breaks should be observed. Designated smoking areas should also have individual "booths" or some sort of partition to ensure physical distancing.

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Mass gatherings will depend on the risk classification of your work places location, but in general, closed areas such as meeting rooms should only have 10% their seating capacity while more open areas can have a maximum of 50% occupying the space. 

Companies with "total assets above P15 million" are mandated to provide an isolation area with one room per 200 employees for employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or possibe exposure. This area should be different from the company clinic and have its own dedicated restroom. Isolation areas should be properly ventilated and have PPEs available. For companies that cannot provide isolation areas, they should coordinate with their local governments.

As for transport, the memorandum "enjoins" companies to provide shuttle services for their employees. This can be offered "for free or for a reasonable fare."

For COVID-19 prevention

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Contract tracing should be top priority, too. Employers are charged with keeping track of contact between workers and possible cases, with mandatory 14-day quarantine should those possible cases be confirmed positive. If they show no symptoms within that period, they can return to work without undergoing testing. Those who do show symptoms "must undergo RT-PCR testing." If a positive case is detected in the work place, the area must be locked down for 24 hours for proper disinfection. 

Workers in certain industries should undergo RT-PCR swab tests. This includes tourist zones declared by the Department of Tourism, manufacturing and public services, transport and logistics, food and non-food retail, education (once face-to-face classes resume), financial services, market vendors, construction, mass media, utility, public, and other services.

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Meanwhile, if you are required to undergo 14-day quarantine period, employers are "highly encouraged to provide sick leave benefits" and medical insurance coverage and pay allowances.

For more information, log on to the DTI-Philippines Facebook page

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