Work Guidelines for Construction Companies During COVID-19

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Work guidelines have been issued by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for companies engaged in construction under Department Order (DO) 35, Series of 2020. DPWH mentioned that it would be very strict in the implementation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.

This DPWH issuance should be appreciated along with the IATF Omnibus Guidelines on who are allowed to work. Below are the salient points of the IATF and DPWH Guidelines.

Executive Order No. (E.O.) 168, s. 2014 created the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to facilitate inter-sectoral collaboration to establish preparedness and ensure efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain, control, and prevent the spread of any potential epidemic in the Philippines.

Section 2(c) of E.O. 168 mandates the IATF to prevent and/or minimize the local spread of emerging infectious diseases in the country through the establishment or reinforcement of a system in screening possible patients infected with emerging infectious diseases, contact tracing, identification of the mode of exposure to the virus, and implementation of effective quarantine and proper isolation procedures.

On 28 January 2020, the IATF convened, and thereafter issued regular

recommendations for the management of the 2019 Novel CoronaVirus Acute Respiratory Disease, which is now known as CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The 18 March 2020 Memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary directed all heads of departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of government, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), Government Financial Institutions (GFIs), State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt, coordinate, and implement guidelines which the IATF may issue on the COVID-19 situation, consistent with the respective agency mandates and relevant laws, rules, and regulations.

On 30 April 2020, Executive Order (E.O.) No. 112, s. 2020 was issued imposing an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in high-risk geographic areas of the Philippines and a General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in the rest of the country from 01 to 15 May 2020, adopting the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation thereof, and for other purposes.

Under Section 4 of the IATF Omnibus Guidelines as of July 2020, areas placed under GCQ shall observe the following protocols:

  1. Minimum public health standards shall be complied with at all times for the duration of the GCQ.
  2. The movement of all persons in areas placed under GCQ shall be limited to accessing essential goods and services, and for work in the offices or industries permitted to operate hereunder.
  3. Any person below twenty-one (21) years old, those who are sixty (60) years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women, including any person who resides with the aforementioned, shall be required to remain in their residences at all times, except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices.

Under Section 4 (8) of the IATF Omnibus Guidelines, all public and private construction projects shall be allowed, but with strict compliance to the construction safety guidelines issued by the DPWH for the implementation of infrastructure projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. WSMSI is involved in construction activities thus, allowed to operate and mobilize its employees accordingly, subject to the government guidelines.

Under Department Order No. 35, Series of 2020 of the DPWH, Construction Safety Guidelines supplemental to the existing safety standards, attached as Annex “1”, must be strictly observed at all times in the implementation of all public and private infrastructure projects for the duration of this public health crisis.

In the areas covered by General Community Quarantine (GCQ). The following essential public and private construction projects are allowed, such as but not limited to:

  1. sewerage projects
  2. water services facilities projects
  3. digital works
  4. health facilities
  5. priority projects
  6. other similar construction projects related to the basic human needs such as but not limited to food production, agriculture, shelter necessary to address housing backlog, energy, and communication.

Annex “1” of the DPWH DO, the following construction safety guidelines, supplemental to the existing safety standards, are hereby established for the construction of all private and public infrastructure projects, as the case may be:

Prior to Deployment

  1. Only persons from Twenty-One (21) to Fifty-Nine (59) years of age, without pre-existing health conditions, such as, but not limited to, immunodeficiency, comorbidities, or other health risks, including any person who resides with the aforementioned; and who did not come into contact with someone with COVID-19 shall be allowed to be included in the workforce. Employees or consultants who are Sixty (60) years of age or above may be part of the workforce for construction projects as may be allowed under GCQ and ECQ guidelines under Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines (“OG”) dated 29 April 2020.
  2. Construction personnel shall be required to undergo any available COVID-19 test, as may be prescribed by DOH, and retested as the need arises. In this regard, consultation with medical doctors (duly accredited by DOH, if possible) prior to the conduct of COVID-19 test shall be made.
  3. The head of the concerned Implementing Office (IO) shall issue construction quarantine pass (QP) to the individual qualified personnel of the concessionaires, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, clearly stating the identification, designation, nature of work, validity and destination. (See Annex “A” – Construction Quarantine Pass Format). It is understood that the QP shall cover transit of personnel from (a) GCQ area to ECQ area, and vice versa and (b) an area not under community quarantine to a GCQ or ECQ area, and vice versa.
  4. The concessionaires, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers shall provide for their personnel/workers the necessary welfare facilities and amenities, such as employees’ quarters for board and lodging, ensuring compliance to social distancing, proper hygiene, Guidelines on the Construction of Infrastructure Projects under the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-2019) Situation etc. Contractors shall submit the design for the said welfare facilities and amenities, for monitoring, to the District Engineering Offices or Regional Offices concerned.
  5. Contractors shall ensure that their projects are in compliance with DOLE D.O. NO. 13 series of 1998. Contractors shall provide their personnel and workers continuous supply of vitamins, particularly vitamin C, other over – the – counter medicines, quarantine facilities, and oxygen tanks for emergency purposes.
  6. Contractors shall provide disinfection facilities in their respective project sites in compliance with pertinent DOH and IATF Guidelines, to be placed at strategic locations to ensure the safety and welfare of all personnel.
  7. Proper information dissemination regarding COVID-19 construction protocols on top of existing construction safety practices shall be conducted by Safety Officers to all personnel.
  8. For Government construction projects, personal records of all personnel necessary for contact tracing shall be submitted by the concessionaires, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers to the DPWH IO and shall be resubmitted and updated monthly, or as the need arises. (See Annex “B” – Worker’s Records Log Format)

During Deployment

  1. Conduct an inventory of works for the construction sequencing to be followed and undertaken to uphold the required social distancing. Break times shall be conducted in a staggered manner.
  2. Employees shall be housed in their respective quarters for the entire duration of the project covered by the ECQ and GCQ. Otherwise, “Prior to Deployment” procedures shall be conducted at every instance of re-entry.
  3. Errands to be conducted outside the construction site premises shall be kept to a minimum. Number of personnel running errands shall be limited and shall be properly disinfected and closely monitored for symptoms within fourteen (14) days upon re-entry.
  4. Field offices, employees’ quarters, and other common areas shall be regularly maintained including the daily disinfection of such facilities.
  5. Adequate food, safe/potable drinking water, disinfectants, and hand soaps shall be made available by the concessionaires, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers to its in house personnel.
  6. Daily monitoring of the pre and post work health conditions of workers shall be undertaken by the concessionaires, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers including, but not limited to, temperature, health, and exposure monitoring, as preventive measures. Personnel with manifestations or symptoms relative to COVID-19 shall be immediately isolated and quarantined for fourteen (14) days and if necessary, brought to the nearest DOH COVID-19 treatment facility under strict confidentiality and privacy. Proper protocols in accordance with the DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Place Prevention and Control of COVID-19 shall likewise be strictly observed. For Government construction projects, a daily health monitoring report to be prepared by the Safety Officer shall be submitted to the DPWH 10. (See Annex “C” – Daily COVID-19 Surveillance Fill Up/Checklist Form)
  7. Work activities shall be under daily strict monitoring by the Safety Officer at site to ensure compliance with safety standards and quarantine protocols.
  8. For Government construction projects, the DPWH Engineers assigned at the site shall ensure strict compliance to DOLE D.O. 13, series of 1998, and implementation of wearing additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required such as, but not limited to, face masks, safety glasses/goggles, face shields, and long sleeve T-shirts, to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. On the other hand, contractors for essential private construction projects under GCQ shall assign a full time safety officer devoted to ensure compliance with D.O. 13, series of 1998 and implementation of social distancing measures provided herein.
  9. For off-site employees’ quarters, transport service, duly disinfected before and after use, shall be provided, with social distancing observed.
  10. Sharing of construction and office equipment is discouraged. However, if necessary, the shared equipment must be disinfected in between transfers amongst personnel.
  11. All material and equipment delivery and disposal shall be conducted by a specific team of personnel on an isolated loading/unloading zone while limiting contact with the delivery/disposal personnel. All material and/or equipment entering the construction site shall be duly disinfected, as possible.
  12. Non-essential personnel, visitors, and the general public shall be restricted to enter the construction site, employees’ quarters, and field offices. Otherwise, all personnel entering the construction site premises on a temporary basis (e.g. Delivery truck drivers, inspectors, etc.) shall be properly logged and checked for symptoms. Gatherings, Liquors, and/or merry – making are strictly prohibited within the construction site premises.
  13. Clustered and staggered deployment of employees within the construction site shall be observed to minimize personnel contact and for easier contact tracing.
  14. Proper waste disposal shall be provided for infectious waste such as PPEs and other waste products coming from outside the construction premises.
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