In the Philippines, health and safety officers must be certified by completing a Basic Occupational Safety and Health (BOSH) course. As these positions are sought after in many industries, courses are usually made available in the BOSH training schedule of 2020.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has announced that all training courses conducted by its office are on hold as they migrate to online platforms. This is due to the continued prevalence of the COVID-19 virus, making physical classroom settings unviable. There is currently no word as to when BOSH training will resume within the OSHC offices.
Although BOSH training is usually conducted year round not only within OSHC but also by Occupational Safety and Health Networks (OSHNets), and DOLE-accredited Safety Training Organizations (STOs), safeguarding against COVID-19 has meant that the course curriculum has to be reexamined. Will it be possible to conduct the entire BOSH training in a virtual classroom and still have the same effectiveness? Although much of the instruction is in the form of lectures, there is also a very important hands-on component, workshops, and actual site visit and practical exercises that the students are required to do. Will it be possible to achieve all of this online?
Under Rule 1033 of Philippine Occupational Safety and Health Standards (as amended) and DO 16 series of 2001, the minimum qualifications, duties, and number of required safety and health officers shall be as follows: 1) All safety officers must complete the Bureau-prescribed training course prior to their appointment in their respective places of employment; 2) All full-time safety officers must meet the requirement of duly-accredited Safety Practitioners or Safety Consultants by the Bureau; and 3) Not less than the required number of supervisors or technical personnel shall take the required training and shall be appointed as a safety officer on a full-time or part-time basis, depending on the number of workers employed and the hazardous or non-hazardous nature of the workplace.
Efforts to control the spread of the virus have meant the imposition of social distancing measures and community quarantine. For aspiring safety officers, this presents a set-back. The role of a well-trained safety officer can spell the difference between a safe workplace and an environment where accidents wait around every corner.
Hopefully, OSHC and DOLE will be successful in reformatting BOSH training schedules for 2020 and the years ahead, so that the course may be offered again, and we can welcome the fresh new batches of highly trained and effective safety officers.