WITH the possible downgrading of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ) in Pampanga tomorrow, or a short modified ECQ in between, some businesses will be allowed to open. It will not be business as usual. There will be some adjustments in the workplace. Social or physical distancing, wearing of face mask, frequent hand washing and disinfection will be the “new normal” from small businesses to big companies.

Even before the ECQ was first declared in March, our industrial park had put in place safety and health protocols. Hand sanitizers and thermal scanners were positioned at the gates and wearing of face mask of security guards was required. Our locators also imposed their own safety procedures.

When the ECQ was implemented, additional safety precautions were imposed. We had disinfection spraying for all vehicles coming in the park and installed hand washing facilities in all gates. Companies who were allowed by the IATF guidelines to operate followed the protocols required by the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

The DTI and DOLE came up with a joint administrative order to observe strict health protocols in the workplace. For the guidance of businesses that will be opening up first the first time, here are some things to observe:

Wearing of face mask is mandatory. To be removed only when eating/drinking. Employers shall provide the appropriate face masks for workers.

All are required to accomplish daily health symptoms form, undergo temperature check, and have them recorded in the health symptoms questionnaire.

If a worker has a temperature of > 37.5°C, even after a five-minute rest, or if his response in the questionnaire needs further evaluation by the clinic staff, the person shall be isolated in an area identified by the company and will not be allowed to enter the workplace premises.

Disinfection must be done for equipment or vehicle entering the establishments, including facilities, and touched objects, such as doorknobs and handles, at least once every two hours.

On top of observing at all times physical distancing, proper respiratory etiquette and disinfection protocols and frequent hand washing eating in communal areas are also discouraged, and if this is not possible, the employer shall ensure a one worker per table and one-meter distance per worker scheme.

Workers are also discouraged to engage in conversation, as well as prolonged face to face interaction with workers and clients.

Meetings needing physical presence must also be reduced or avoided.

Private establishments are also mandated to implement alternative work arrangements, such as working-hour shifts, work from home, where feasible, and on a rotation basis.

If feasible, employers must also provide shuttle services and/or decent accommodation on near-site locations to lessen travel and people movement.

Employers may test workers for Covid-19. Testing kits used and procured shall be the responsibility of the employer.

Most “at risk” workers and vulnerable groups, or those 60 years old or of any age with co-morbidities or pre-existing illness, such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or with immunocompromised health status; or with high-risk pregnancy are encouraged to do work from home arrangement.