WITH the confirmed first case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the country, the Department of Labor and Employment yesterday issued safety and health advisory to prevent its spread in workplaces.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III issued Labor Advisory no. 4 saying employers and establishments are directed to provide relevant information about 2019-nCoV to their employees, determine needed adjustment in work schemes, and take immediate precautionary measures.
“We are issuing these prevention and control guidelines to assist private sector workplaces in their preparedness and response to the 2019-nCoV,” he said.
Bello enjoined employers to maintain cleanliness and make available disinfectants and sanitizers in the workplace, and prevent workers from direct exposure to animals, environments, and objects possibly carrying the 2019-nCoV.
“Aside from these, we are also directing employers to monitor the health of workers particularly those with fever and flu symptoms and those who have traveled to or worked in countries affected with the 2019-nCoV,” he said.
As a preventive measure in workplaces where workers are evidently at risk of infection like health-care and other frontline services, the advisory directs employers to establish a screening program in accordance with the guidelines set by the Department of Health.
“Workers in these workplaces are also reminded to take extra precautionary measures which include strict hygiene and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) while at work,” Bello said.
The advisory also provides measures to guide employers for care of workers who are suspected as having 2019-nCoV, such as providing the worker with a face mask; isolating the affected worker in a separate well-ventilated room; referring the victim to the company health care provider or nearest local health center or hospital; reporting the case to the health department; and decontaminating the work area with appropriate disinfectant.
Regarding the leave of absence of affected workers, the employer or establishment, may charge the worker’s absence on his or her annual sick or vacation leave as provided for in their company policy, practice, or collective bargaining agreement.
Also, the employer or establishment, with the concurrence of the workers, may adopt other arrangements to compensate for the worker’s leave of absence.
In terms of social security benefits, the advisory provides that infected workers and their dependents may avail of PhilHealth hospital benefits on top of the existing company health care benefits and are entitled to claim sickness benefits under the Social Security System and employees’ compensation benefits under Presidential Decree 626, or EC Law.
“In the event that the worker is not qualified to avail these social security benefits due to the fault of the employer, the employer shall shoulder all the medical expenses until full recovery,” Bello said.
Bello noted that to guide the workers, the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC), and the DOLE-Regional Offices, in coordination with the DOH, will provide information on 2019-nCoV and workplace concerns; render technical assistance in the form of risk assessment; and facilitate capacity building to identified focal persons for 2019-nCoV in the workplace.
For Filipino migrant workers, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) will ensure the provision of information about the 2019-nCoV prevention and control during the pre-departure orientation seminars.