As the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring safe and healthy conditions in the workplace remains of utmost importance. Over 1,000 health workers have been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease, while close to 30 have lost their lives helping patients overcome COVID-19. Pharmacists, supermarket and wet market sellers, gasoline station attendants, military and police officers, food delivery riders, local government unit employees, and other frontliners also risk their lives daily when they come in contact with people who may have the deadly virus but not know it.
Fittingly, World Day of Safety and Health at Work, an annual international campaign observed every April 28 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 2003, names “Stop the Pandemic: Safety and Health at Work Can Save Lives” as its theme for 2020. This theme is bound to remain relevant even after quarantine rules are relaxed. “Make no mistake,” warned World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time.”
For health workers
- WHO’s Advice for Health Workers details the “rights, roles, and responsibilities of health workers, including key considerations for occupational safety and health.” Managers and employers in health facilities should, among other things:
- assume overall responsibility to ensure that all necessary preventive and protective measures are taken to minimize occupational safety and health risks;
- provide adequate IPC and PPE supplies (masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, hand santizer, soap and water, cleaning supplies) in sufficient quantity to healthcare or other staff caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, such that workers do not incur expenses for occupational safety and health requirements.
- Volunteer Lawyers Against Discrimination (VLAD) was formed after Filipino healthcare workers experienced harassment from community members who feared these workers would infect the neighborhood with COVID-19. Since its launch in April, VLAD has assisted over 100 individuals. “The voice of a lawyer is invaluable in these times when self-esteem is low,” said founding VLAD member Divina Pedron to Inquirer Lifestyle. “It can actually save lives.”
For employees in different fields
Imposed on March 16, the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) seeks to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 through such measures as social distancing, taking people’s temperature with a thermal scanner, making hand sanitizers available, and the mandatory wearing of face masks. Schools have been closed and many offices have adopted a work-from-home arrangement. Banks, supermarkets, wet markets, drug stores, and other essential businesses limit the number of people in their establishment.
Areas with moderate to low-risk cases of COVID-19 will transition to a general community quarantine (GCQ) on May 1. Under the GCQ, certain businesses will be allowed to resume work provided they continue to maintain health and safety protocols such as social distancing, hand washing, and wearing a mask. Public transportation will operate in a minimum capacity, and children (0 to 20 years old), seniors (60 years old and above), and individuals with health issues are to remain in their homes.