By Myrna M. Velasco
As Metro Manila transitions to general community quarantine (GCQ) tomorrow, the Department of Energy (DOE) has issued protocols that its attached agencies and industry players would adhere to in the envisioned “new normal” in the energy sector.
Through an Administrative Order (AO) issued by the department, it prescribed several parameters on how energy companies could gradually reopen or ramp up their operations after the more than two months of disruption because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has directed the agency’s Task Force on Energy Resiliency (TFER) as the implementing body of the “new normal” protocols; primarily ensuring the compliance of all attached agencies and the industry players.
As noted by the energy chief, “it is imperative for the energy industry to observe a strict COVID-19 response protocol,” as he emphasized that “protecting the occupational health and safety of our employees is central to the unimpeded delivery of energy goods and services.”
He added “as back-liners during this pandemic, we must remain healthy to keep providing vital energy to all our front liners.”
The general framework of COVID- 19 health safety protocols for the energy sector delves with: Prevention; detection; isolation; treatment; reintegration and the need for the energy entities to adopt with the ‘new normal’ pace of the industry.
Cusi said simulation planning in the sector went as far as visualizing a scenario wherein there is coronavirus contagion in a power plant – hence, the intended approaches shall be how to detect that and then isolation of the affected employees must be planned; and how they can eventually be treated.
But better than having coronavirus infection, the best advice for the companies and energy agencies is still on prevention of possible infection.
Reintegration of employees shall include those that are of “clean bill of health”; and in cases that COVID infection comes off, the return-to-work of those affected must be handled well to prevent discrimination as what has been happening to former patients – chiefly those who recovered from the plague of the virus infection.
For many energy companies, their managements have been instituting COVID testing before they allow the return of their employees to work, especially when Metro Manila would already be mollified into a “general community quarantine” status. Some firms even extended testing privileges to the families of their employees – especially their human resources who are needed in critical operations of their companies.
Many offices of energy companies had also been reconfigured to ensure social distancing convention in the workplace; some firms are enforcing continuous “work from home” arrangement to minimize exposure of their employees especially those who are classified to be in the “vulnerable” segment; and there is also mandatory wearing of masks; constant temperature checks as well as other health and safety measures being set in place.