Clearing the air in the time of COVID-19 | Inquirer Business
Property rules

Clearing the air in the time of COVID-19

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed,” said Abraham Lincoln, former President of the United States.

“Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much higher consideration.”

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In highlighting the importance of the Philippine labor force, Congress has authorized the Secretary of Labor and Employment under the Labor Code, as amended, to, among others: (a) set and enforce mandatory occupational safety and health standards to eliminate or reduce occupational safety and health hazards in all workplaces; and (b) institute new, and update existing, programs to ensure safe and healthful working conditions in all places of employment.

Among these standards is adequate ventilation for workplaces to prevent and control the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19. Thus, in issuing Department Order No. 224, Series of 2021, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) seeks to strictly enforce this standard on all commercial and industrial establishments, projects, sites and all other places, where work is being undertaken indoors. Meanwhile, healthcare facilities, which require special considerations in the control of COVID-19, are not covered by this issuance.

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With regard to non-airconditioned workplaces, employers are required to maximize natural ventilation through the use of doors, windows and other openings, if possible and safe to do so. Likewise, they must ensure that the natural air brought into the workplace is free of contaminants. If natural ventilation would not be feasible or inadequate, fans and airconditioning system to supply fresh and extract contaminated air shall be used as mechanical ventilation.

Exhaust fans shall be continuously used to ensure dilution ventilation at an air change rate of six to 12 Air Change per Hour—that is, the air flow to a space expressed as volume per unit time divided by the volume of the space, while maximizing natural ventilation through the use of doors, windows and other openings, if possible and safe to do so.

If the use of ventilating fans could not be avoided, employers must increase outdoor air changes by opening windows and the like. Air flow direction or movement should be considered in the layout of work stations to avoid person-to-person viral spread through airborne respiratory droplets.

Employers shall conduct weekly cleaning of windows, other openings and ventilating fans, as are necessary.

Meanwhile, outdoor air supply for workplaces with a heating, ventilation, and airconditioning system should conform to the recommended breathing zone ventilation rates for the purpose of general air dilution and comfort control. Moreover, this system shall be operated for at least 30 minutes before and after spaces are occupied.

In workplaces with local airconditioning units, dilution ventilation may be done through the use of exhaust fans, and filters with Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value of at least 13 or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter rating applicable to the unit installed. In this regard, the employers shall ensure that enough exhaust fans relative to the room volume are available to have the required breathing zone minimum ventilation rates.

Where ventilation is greatly recirculated or access to outside air is not feasible, filters such as HEPA filtration air purifiers can be used to clean recirculated air, provided that the unit is adequate for the size of the room in which it is installed. Employers must ensure their units’ proper maintenance by following the manufacturers’ recommendations thereon.

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Furthermore, employers shall keep the louvers of local airconditioning units in an upward position to prevent the air flowing from one person to another, while observing minimum health protocols. Meanwhile, windows, doors and other openings must be frequently opened to supplement the mechanical ventilation systems to achieve dilution.

Employers shall establish a cleaning and maintenance program for these mechanical systems. Thus, they shall ensure that no molds or stagnant water will be circulated in the atmosphere. Filters must be changed when necessary. Employees responsible for such cleaning and maintenance must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

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For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.

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