More than Just Humours: Intervention Protocols inside the Workplace
CAL Gallardo; Paladins of Law
In 1348, the king of France asked the professors for their advice as the plague approached the royal capital. The professors combined medicine with astrology and claimed that the air of the Earth was overheated due to the “conjunction of the planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter in the zodiac sign of Aquarius”, which in turn impels the “black bile” to dominate other fluids of the body. Well, I do not know what this meant but the implication was that when medieval doctors referred to a pestilence, they often did not mean the disease itself, but the “poisoned air that engendered the disease in human bodies”.
That might sound unreasonable but to be fair to them however, medieval physicians do not have the same equipment as our modern scientists. In fact, they all thought that all sicknesses come from the imbalance of the so-called 4 “humours” or fluids of the body, which are namely black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood, each of which corresponds to a certain “temperament”. I know what you are thinking- this sounds like a crossover of 20th Century Studios Pixar and Pixar’s Inside and Out. How creative.
Fortunately, modern science taught us that COVID-19 is communicable through fluids coming from an infected person. With great power however comes great responsibility. Now that we more or less know how it spreads, everyone must do their share in containing this pandemic. In the third part of this blog quadrilogy, we shall discuss the intervention protocols inside the workplace.
Are we required to provide face masks and face shields to employees?
Yes. Note also that not all types of face masks are okay. Only medical grade masks and cloth masks WITH filters are allowed. Meaning, cloth masks without filters and masks with vents are prohibited. Face shields, on the other hand, must cover the entire face, meaning it should extend to both sides of the face and the chin. Visor-type face shields are not allowed.
Must it be worn EVEN INSIDE the workplace? Isn’t that unreasonable?
Yes. Face masks must be worn at all times even inside the workplace. Face shields must also be worn EXCEPT when the nature of the work to be undertaken demands otherwise. It is a minimum health standard that cannot be compromised. In fact, it cannot be removed even if there is a plastic or acrylic barrier installed on each station.
How about physical distancing? Also a requirement even inside the workplace?
Yes, it is another minimum health standard that must be followed even inside the workplace. A physical distance of at least one (1) meter is required EVEN if face masks and face shields are being worn. In fact, even designated smoking areas in the workplaces shall be provided with individual “booths” to ensure the minimum one (1) meter distance. For cramped establishments, employers may have the option to implement skeletal workforce, work from home arrangements, shifting work schedule or any other similar work arrangements.
How about cafeterias? Can my employees eat together?
Yes provided that the minimum health standards are in place, such as mandating physical distancing and presence of protective barriers. To ensure physical distancing, a staggered meal schedule is highly encouraged. If all workers can eat in their workstations, then there is no need for staggered meal schedules.
What else do I need to provide?
Aside from the usual soap, sanitizers and hand washing stations, hand drying equipment or supplies such as tissues must also be provided.  These shall be put in the hallways, conference areas, elevators, stairways, points of entry, locker rooms, common areas such as pantry, bathroom, canteen and personal workspace, including company vehicles and shuttle services.
Okay perhaps the most interesting thing to ask about intervention protocols inside the workplace, do I really need to provide an isolation area?
Similar to the requirement of shuttle service, establishment of an isolation area of one room for every 200 employees is encouraged only for establishments with total assets of above P15 Million. The requirement of designating an isolation area of one (1) room for every 200 employees shall be based on the average number of employees actually reporting to work per shift.
Establishments with multiple tenants are similarly obliged to secure such a separate isolation area, which shall be other than the company clinic, and must be situated near the entrance/s or in a nearby facility. For this purpose, the joint Safety and Health Committee may consider pooling their resources. Another option is for them to make arrangement with a private establishment or a Barangay Facility that may be utilized for this purpose.
What If it is physically impossible to make one?
For establishments with difficulties in allocating the necessary space for an isolation area, open tents may be provided for this purpose. The establishment is also advised to coordinate this matter with the LGU or the Barangay having jurisdiction over the workplace.
What if most of my employees are working from home anyway? Still needed?
Yes. There will always be workers who will report physically in their office. Furthermore, clients or visitors visiting the establishment may need to be isolated.
Who shall man that isolation area? Must a medical expert be present there the whole time?
Ideally, trained personnel must have a medical background such as physicians, nurses or at least a first aider. However, in the absence of the above, any worker will do provided that he/she has BOSH training or at least a background on safety and health and knowledgeable on the mechanism of referral or coordination of action with government authorities.
Lastly, how long must a suspected or symptomatic person stay in the isolation area?
This will depend on how fast the suspect or probable case is referred and picked up by health authorities. Suspect and probable cases may have to stay in the isolation area while awaiting release of RT-PCR results or resolution of symptoms, or for completion of required quarantine period.
Obviously, we are far from the medieval medicine involving the 4 humours. Interestingly however, the 4 humours concept corresponding to 4 temperaments and 4 seasons have been adapted even by Islamic medicine and persi-arabic indian medicine. Typical treatments of disease, in order to balance this “humours” well, include bleeding and applying hot cups. Ouch. For the last part of this quadrilogy, we shall be discussing the standard procedures and protocols should an employee be found to be symptomatic or positive. For the meantime, please join our Facebook Group Business and Labor Forum for free legal updates. Check the link below.
Christian Andrew Labitoria Gallardo recently graduated with a degree of Juris Doctor at the Ateneo School of Law and is currently an associate of the Sangalang & Gaerlan, Business Lawyers, a law firm specializing in corporate, labor and business law. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Dave Roos, Social Distancing and Quarantine Were Used in Medieval Times to Fight the Black Death, available at https://www.history.com/news/quarantine-black-death-medieval (last accessed October 10, 2020).  Id.  Bureau of Working Conditions, Frequently Asked Questions on DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular no 20-04A.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II B.  Id.  Id.  Bureau of Working Conditions, Frequently Asked Questions on DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular no 20-04A.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II B.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II B.  Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).  Bureau of Working Conditions, Frequently Asked Questions on DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular no 20-04A.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II B 2.