June 8, 2020

DTI-DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19

On 30 April 2020, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Labor jointly issued the “DTI-DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19” for the adaptation of the “new normal” in workplaces. This “new normal” includes physical distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks, disinfection procedures, cough etiquette, and frequent handwashing, among others.

COVID-19 Tests and PPEs

COVID-19 tests on employees are not mandated, but highly encouraged.

Employers are mandated to provide their employees with appropriate face masks. If cloth masks are to be used, the washable type shall be worn but additional filter material, e.g., tissue must be added.

Clinic staff assigned to assess workers held in the isolation area of an establishment shall be provided with appropriate medical grade PPEs by the establishment. For cleaners and maintenance, rubber or latex gloves and goggles in addition to face masks shall also be provided by the employer at no cost to the workers.

Workplace Safety and Work Arrangements

It is mandatory to comply with the one (1) meter physical distancing within the workplace. For cramped establishments, employers have the option to implement a skeletal workforce, work from home arrangements, shifting work schedules, or any other similar arrangements.

As a general rule, vulnerable individuals (senior citizens, pregnant women, workers with co-morbidities) are discouraged to travel and work to protect themselves from being infected. Work from home arrangement or any alternative work arrangement may be assigned to them as may be applicable.

However, the foregoing is not absolute, For instance, vulnerable individuals who are working in manufacturing and service oriented establishments, where a work from home arrangement is not possible, special work accommodations may be provided such as transport services, provision for sleeping quarters, and other arrangements agreeable and feasible to both parties.

Transportation and Accommodation Facility

The provision for transportation and accommodation facility is not mandatory but an option for the employer. However, as long as public transportation is not available, employers cannot fault their workers from not reporting for work. Workers who refuse to report to work despite the availability of means to do so shall be subject to management action based on existing company policy.

Requirements for Establishments

The following are the safety measures that must be observed at the entrance/s of establishments:

  1. No mask, no entry policy;
  2. Accomplishment of Health Symptoms Questionnaire for everyone who enters the establishment;
  3. Temperature check, which will be recorded in the Health Symptom Questionnaire;
  4. Provision of a well-ventilated holding/isolation area near the entrance, with trained personnel (ideally with medical background) who can decide whether or not to send an individual home or refer him/her to the nearest health facility. Clinics of establishments shall be separate and distinct from the isolation area. For establishments with difficulties in allocating the necessary space for an isolation area, open tents may be provided for this purpose;
  5. Designation of a health officer;
  6. Disinfecting foot baths are optional.

Nevertheless, malls, groceries, and similar establishments, are not required to have their clients and customers accomplish a Health Symptom Questionnaire. Instead, they may just perform temperature checks.

For buildings with multiple tenants, the joint safety and health committee shall be in-charge of the implementation of the DTI-DOLE Interim Guidelines. The Committee shall be headed by the building owner or his/her representative with the safety officers of the building’s tenants as members. The tenants may opt to share resources and coordinate their safety and health measures to ensure the successful implementation of this guideline.

Some industries, such as construction and audio-visual, where the required physical distancing may not be possible due to their work processes, must adapt their own separate guidelines. These industries however must still ensure that their respective guidelines are aligned with the minimum health standards set by the Department of Health.

Home quarantine for Exposed Workers

Workers who come in close contact with a co-worker who is a suspect/probable/confirmed COVID-19 case shall go on a 14-day home quarantine. Leaves incurred by the worker due to this are chargeable against his/her leave credits which are still available. However, the DOLE appeals to employers to be more compassionate towards their employees by letting them earn leave credits while allowing them to be under work from home arrangements.

Reportorial Requirement

Companies are required to submit a monthly Work Accident/Illness Report (WAIR) whether or not there are COVID 19 cases in their workplace.

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