Philippine Nuclear Research Institute
Best Practice Focus Area/s
Strategy, Citizens / Customers, Operations
15 April 2020
This is a GBPR Entry
A set of Business Continuity Practices practices was established and followed to ensure productivity, income, and staff performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of these best practices, the laboratory could provide its regular services to customers, generate an income of Php 2,300,000.00 for 2020, and receive awards from external award-giving bodies even during the Enhanced Community Quarantine and the frustrating times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The existence of the COVID-19 risks was turned into opportunities to formulate the section’s business continuity plan that addresses the outcomes of disasters, fire, diseases, low business, etc. A return to work protocol was developed, which prescribed the guidelines to assure customers and staff of their safety in making business transactions amid the pandemic.
Background and Problem
Normal daily work activities are difficult to carry out in the office when crises such as loss of stocks, computer systems failure, fire, natural calamities, and serious staff illnesses strike an organization. This can lead to the loss of regular customers and loss of business. Since April 2020, the Philippines has been stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic. The imposition of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) nationwide has greatly affected private and government organizations’ operations, leading to many economic and opportunity losses. Like any other organization, the Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology, was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to the community quarantines.
The Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications (NATA) Section is a service laboratory unit of PNRI. As of 2019, the section has had 15 research projects in various fields: environment, food safety, analytical work, and authenticity testing. The projects the PNRI implements are only 40% of their targets—the remaining 60% are on services. The team manages at least six (6) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Technical Cooperation (TC) projects as National Project Counterparts. They have projects on isotope hydrology to ensure sustainability and enhance the availability of freshwater resources in the country. They also do Isotope ecology, wherein they apply isotope-based tracing of nutrient contamination in the environment and monitor the natural attenuation of these pollutants. The section measures characterize and apportion sources of air pollution in the country. They develop and optimize methods to authenticate food labels and detect and discourage fraudulent adulteration in foodstuff and mislabeling. Naturally occurring radionuclides in the soil in selected sites are also monitored.
The service analyses cover gross alpha-beta and radon determination in water to protect the public from undue exposure to radioactivity-emitting nuclides. Drinking water is tested before reaching the household. The section ensures that the food on the table in Filipino families is safe through gammametric analysis. This test is also used for international trade. The section also provides an elemental analysis of materials.
These operations were halted during the GCQ if not for the best practices developed to prevent more loss of business. In August 2020, the section returned to operation through a package of best practices developed by the NATA, which resulted in the productivity of the section amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The section still generated an income of Php 2,300,000.00, and a very satisfactory rating on customer and staff satisfaction was achieved as the laboratory received awards from the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).
Solution and Impact
The best practices highlighted in the PNRI-NATA laboratories are:
- The significance of collaborations with regulators, industry players, and stakeholders,
- The establishment of mechanisms for translational research in NATA research to carry out the mandate effectively, and
- The conduct of stakeholder mapping.
These rules aimed to develop a good and safe workplace environment, staff welfare, inspiration, cooperation and trust, customer confidence and full engagement, and consistency in supplier availability and supply chains. Staff and leaders had to focus on learning and development, especially skills, to adapt to the new normal and maintain and improve the quality system. A new business continuity plan had to be formulated to provide insights from all angles to sustain productivity amid a crisis. Leadership strived to increase the value of the laboratory’s services and helped customers to maintain their business. Most notably was setting quality goals that ensure 100% accuracy of results and 100% customer and staff satisfaction.
The impact of the best practice developed was realized when the section generated an income of Php 2,300,000.00 for the government in 2020. Continuity of the services and research activities was achieved. In 2020, the PNRI was awarded best in international publications in the DOST, with 47 publications in ISI/ Scopus-listed journals. Of these 47, five (5) were from the NATA Section. New research collaborations were signed, and the NATA will offer additional shop floor services in 2021. Maintenance of the Quality Systems (ISO:9001 and ISO:17025) was achieved with no significant non-conformities found during the external quality audits.
- NATA laboratories were able to perform service analysis and remained productive.
- NATA laboratories were able to complete its statutory requirements amidst the COVID- 19 scare, such as:
- Radioactive Materials Authorization maintained (audited 2020)
- ISO 17025 is maintained and will be applied to the Philippine Accreditation office
- ISO 9001 Maintained; no NCs in the External Audit (Dec 15, 2020)
- Availability of staff with Pollution Control Officer Certification
- Awareness of ISO 14001 (Environment) of Laboratory Manager and one staff
- Awareness of ISO 22000 (Food Safety) of Laboratory Manager
- Awareness of ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety) of Laboratory Manager and one staff
- Awareness of Environmental Aspect and Impact Assessment of Laboratory manager and one staff
- Completed the following projects in 2020: Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs) Project, Honey Authentication Project, Shabu Profiling Project, IAEA TC Project (PHI 5034) on Yolanda effects.
- Nearly completed the following projects: National Research Council of the Philippines Project (sulfur isotopes in air pollution), Surigao Air Pollution and Soil Pollution Project, Condiments Project (toyo and patis), Fukushima I-139.
- Able to manage ongoing projects: Maynilad Water Company, Inc. Hydrology Project, National Water Resources Board-PNRI Hydrology Project, Davao City-PNRI Hydrology Project, Nuclear Analytical Techniques in Cosmetic & Pharmaceutical Sciences, IAEA RAS 5081 (food authenticity), IAEA Isotope Hydrology, Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) instrumental neutron activation analysis, FNCA Climate Change.
- Take up new projects: IAEA Wetlands Project (to cover Catanduanes, Aklan, Surigao), Boracay-Nabaoy Project funded by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development. Funding agencies approve projects, and PNRI can implement new projects using the new normal platforms.
- All NATA contractual personnel and Job Order personnel were required to take the online course on “Corona Virus (COVID- 19) for Nursing Professionals” (one contact hour). This equipped participants with the knowledge to care for COVID-19 patients and suspects in case they have one at home and simultaneously protect themselves from the deadly virus. A 99% attendance was achieved with the Certificate of Completion from IntelliCare as proof of the conduct of the course.
- With the help of a psychometrician, a mental health assessment of NATA personnel (70% of the staff) was done. By taking care of the personnel’s mental health, the institution maintained a highly encouraged and inspired workforce, which is vital for employees’ peak performance.
- Despite the pandemic, the agency was able to acquire the Certificate of Authority to Operate Chemical Laboratories from the Professional Regulation Commission.
- Achieved five NAST International Publication Awards; produced one Working Paper Series of the Development Academy of the Philippines Graduate School (Formulation of Vinegar Standard of the Philippines and Policy Recommendation.) Have three Presentations in the 2020 Atomic Energy Week Technical and Poster Sessions; and one best poster.
- NATA Substance Abuse Prevention Module was produced for all staff via slide share. This was to help the NATA unit maintain its drug-free status, which was validated through drug testing conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for all NATA staff in 2019.
- A revised Policy Recommendation for the Honey Authenticity Project was completed.