Office colleagues holding a meeting pre-COVID19 at SPACES in BGC Taguig City
By Alithea De Jesus
To ensure that workplaces have established stricter health protocols to prevent further spread of coronavirus, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued on Friday, August 14, the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-04 or the “DTI and DOLE Supplemental Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19” in further efforts to minimize the transmission of the virus in the workplace.
“This JMC is a crucial part of the reopening of businesses. As we continue the difficult task of balancing health and the economy, we have to make sure stricter protocols are in place for the protection of our workers,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III added: “This is so far the most comprehensive set of guidelines for the safety and protection of workers and employees in workplaces. The strict observance of these health protocols will make a big difference in our long-drawn battle to defeat COVID 19 and ensure the productivity of the Filipino workforce.'”
The two officials stressed that the JMC has been refined and fine-tuned following several consultations with health experts, local government units, and business groups to ensure that it represents the interests of all key sectors.
Among the provisions of the JMC are the enjoining of large- and medium-sized private companies to offer shuttle services and mandatory establishment of temporary isolation facilities for symptomatic employees. Large and medium-sized private establishments are classified as those with assets of above PHP15 million.
Likewise, the guidelines also mandate the wearing of face shields, together with face masks, when interacting with colleagues and customers. It only allows the removal of face shields when not interacting with colleagues and customers, or when the demands of the work or occupational safety and health of employees so require.
Dining in canteen areas has also been prohibited except if there is strict compliance to one-meter physical distancing and if there are provisions of physical barriers. The trade chief emphasized that these provisions are meant to further lower the transmission as workers have been reported to interact with their fellow employees without face masks. Additionally, designated smoking areas shall also be provided with individual booths.
“We understand the added burden for our employers and workers but we request for everyone’s full cooperation as we stress the need to lower the transmission in the workplace,” Sec. Lopez explained.
The Trade Chief added: “Each one will have to practice self-discipline, self-regulation. Whatever the community quarantine level is, the virus is just always there, waiting.”
Lastly, the JMC also requires the PCR testing for symptomatic employees and close contacts of positive cases. However, the Trade Secretary emphasized that neither rapid testing nor PCR tests are required or recommended for asymptomatic workers to be able to return to work.
“Our constant reminder to our fellow citizens is for their increased consciousness and awareness in order to strengthen the compliance of the workplace prevention protocols,” Sec. Lopez said.
He added: “If we strictly follow these guidelines per person, per company, per city, the health numbers improve. But it is very important to keep the discipline because if we don’t, the numbers will go up again. The numbers will go up and down until the next vaccine, but it will stay low if hindi tayo bibitaw.”