With the confirmed first case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the country, the Department of Labor and Employment on Friday issued a safety and health advisory to prevent and control the risk of its spread in workplaces.
A Labor Advisory no. 4, signed by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, directs employers, and establishments to provide information about nCoV to their workers, determine a 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 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.
The advisory also provided 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.
The advisory directed employers to establish a screening program in accordance with the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH).
“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.
As for leave of absence of affected workers, he added that the employer or establishment may charge the worker’s absence to his or her annual sick or vacation leave as provided for in their company policy, practice, or collective bargaining agreement.
The employer or establishment, with the concurrence of the workers, may also 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 of these social security benefits due to the fault of the employer, the employer shall shoulder all the medical expenses until full recovery,” Bello said.
He added that the Bureau of Working Conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Center, and the DOLE regional offices, in coordination with the DOH, will provide information on 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. (Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)