Press Release
August 30, 2020

Villanueva asks authorities: Ensure workers' protection with strict workplace monitoring vs COVID-19

Senator Joel Villanueva has sought authorities to ensure that COVID-19 prevention protocols in the workplace are strictly observed following the guidelines specified in Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 20-04, which the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued on Aug. 14.

In a statement, Villanueva also called on workplace occupational safety and health (OSH) committees and safety officers in companies to take the lead in monitoring and ensuring compliance to the government's recent issuance on prevention and control of COVID-19.

"Mapipigilan po natin ang pagkalat ng sakit sa mga lugar-paggawa kung isinasagawa ang regular na testing sa mga manggagawa, lalo na sa mga priority workers na nakasaad sa JMC No. 20-04," Villanueva said. "Maliban sa regular na testing, kailangan rin pong regular ang pag-disinfect sa mga lugar-paggawa, pagsagawa ng agarang contact tracing, at pagbibigay ng ulat sa mga kinauukulan para makatulong sa pagtukoy ng mga disease clusters."

(We can prevent the spread of the disease in workplaces if our workers undergo regular testing, especially the priority workers specified in JMC No. 20-04. Aside from regular testing, we need to disinfect our workplaces regularly, do immediate contact tracing if there is a positive case in the workplace, and report to authorities to help them determine disease clusters," Villanueva said.)

"Our safety officers and OSH committees must exercise vigilance in their respective workplaces to ensure that protocols are observed when it comes to preventing the spread of the disease," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee. "We also call on our authorities to monitor the compliance of workplaces to prevent the spread of the disease."

Villanueva, principal author and sponsor of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards law or Republic Act No. 11058, said company OSH committees or safety officers are expected to ensure that minimum health standards are observed in the workplace.

The DTI-DOLE guidelines also stated that employers must disinfect workplaces periodically, especially when their worker tests positive for COVID-19. The building should be placed under a lockdown "for 24 hours prior to disinfection to lessen transmission to sanitation personnel," according to the guidance. The facility may reopen 24 hours after the disinfection process.

Company OSH personnel should immediately notify health offices of the local government unit which has jurisdiction over the workplace for COVID-positive cases, symptomatic employees, and their respective close contacts, according to the guidance. Should there be two or more COVID-19 cases from the same area or facility, it can be already considered as a case cluster.

JMC No. 20-04 also indicated priority workers who need to undergo periodic testing using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR test). Workers in the tourism and hospitality sectors should undergo PCR tests monthly, while workers in the manufacturing and public services sectors should be tested quarterly.

Frontline and economic priority workers are also expected to be tested quarterly. These workers are from the following sectors: transportation and logistics; food retail; education, once face to face classes resume; financial services; non-food retail; services; market vendors; construction workers; water supply, sewerage, and waste management; public sector; and mass media.

Villanueva reiterated his call to PhilHealth to create a program that would expedite the processing of payments for workers' testing.

"PhilHealth should be able to foot the entire cost of workers' COVID-19 testing because it is part and parcel of their mandate," the lawmaker said.

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