How workers can fight the novel coronavirus at the workplace

Employers and employees should work together to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthy. Appropriate, clear and well-implemented safety and health plans should be present in all workplaces to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). 

We encourage all workers especially members of health and safety committees and/or safety officers to lead in promoting awareness and monitoring developments about the novel coronavirus. Here are some suggestions on how to keep workers safe and healthy at all times: 

  1. Educate and update workers on recent information about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Fake news and articles about the 2019-nCoV are being spread in various social media platforms. It is important to share reliable facts and data to ensure that all workers are well-informed and updated. We encourage workers’ unions to share information materials in different forms such as leaflets, posters, OSH updates on workers’ bulletin boards or social media posts. 

Here are several links that you can access and get reliable and recent data about the 2019 nCoV. 

World Health Organization on Novel Coronavirus ( 2019-nCoV)

Department of Health Updates on Novel Coronavirus

You can also share this short but informative video clip about the 2019 nCoV to your Facebook timeline. 

  • 2. Discuss Labor Advisory No. 04 Series of 2020, Guidelines on 2019 Novel Coronavirus          (2019-nCoV) Prevention and Control at the Workplace with the management. 

Last January 31, the Labor Department has issued a labor advisory to guide employers and employees in the private sector on the control and prevention of the 2019-nCoV in workplaces. We urge the workers through the health and safety committees to hold meetings with their employers to discuss the guidelines. It is also best to conduct risk assessment and establish a particular health and safety advisory for your workplace to reflect your specific conditions, risks and plans. 

Here’s a link to DOLE’s Labor Advisory No. 04 . Download it now.

If there’s still no health and safety committee established in your workplace, please refer to Chapter IV, Section 13 of D.O. 198 or the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10058. IOHSAD also encourages workers’ unions to form their own health and safety committees, invite their members to join and work together to implement OSH programs. 

  • 3. Design and implement an infection control plan in your workplace. 

List down measures that should be practiced in your workplace to ensure workers’ health and safety at all times. Make sure that employers fulfill and provide all the necessary resources for the proper implementation of the infection control plan. 

Here are several measures that you can include in your plan: 

  • Ensure that clean hand washing facilities and alcohol-based hand sanitizers are accessible to all workers to help workers maintain good hygiene practices at all times.
  • Check and ensure that all ventilation systems in the workplace are working properly. 
  • Make sure that objects that are touched frequently such as workstations, doorknobs, railings are always kept clean. 
  • Ensure that medical facilities and personnel are present in your workplace. Refer to Chapter IV, Section 15 of D.O. 198 or the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11058 to know the required number of health personnel, medical supplies, equipment and facilities for all covered workplaces. 
  • If an imminent danger is present in the workplace (risk of infection in health care facilities), please refer to Labor Advisory No. 04 on the steps that should be implemented to “avoid, correct or remove such imminent danger”. 

Take note of the provision “Workers’ Right to Refuse Unsafe Work”(Chapter 3, Section 6) that is included in the Occupational Safety and Health Law or RA 11058.  When an imminent danger is present in your workplace, report it immediately to the safety officer and demand that he/she can determine and implement a work stoppage/suspension in cases of imminent danger. He/She should immediately notify the Labor Department about the presence of imminent danger in the workplace. Once this is complied, workers can refuse to work until the workplace is declared safe. 

It is important to note that in other countries such as Canada, legislation provides workers the right to refuse unsafe work “as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that it presents a danger”.

It is unfortunate that in our case, workers are tied to the safety officers’ determination of an imminent danger and declaration of work stoppage. IOHSAD encourages workers to report their experiences and challenges in exercising their right to refuse unsafe work. We will compile these reports and work on how this provision in the OSH Law can better serve the workers’ right to safe and healthy workplaces.

The novel coronavirus is an urgent public health issue that needs swift and decisive actions most especially from the government. IOHSAD supports the health workers’ urgent demands for protective gears and transparency in nCoV cases. Our doctors, nurses and health workers should be given protection and support in their efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

Photo taken by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News ; photo grabbed from https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/02/06/20/nurses-demand-protective-gear-transparency-in-coronavirus-fight

For comments and updates on the steps being implemented in your workplace for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus, you can write a comment below, send us a message at iohsadph@gmail.com or at our Facebook page IOHSAD Philippines. Keep safe!