Of PPEs, COVID19 testing and Other Preventive Measures Before Entering the Workplace
CAL Gallardo; Paladins of Law
Imagine this. Mysterious figures in wide-brimmed hats wrapped from head to toe with leather, wearing red-eye glasses goggles and masks with beaks, to the point that they look like a crossover of grim reaper and the scarecrows in the Children of the Corn movie. Yep, that is the medieval form of PPEs used by the doctors during the black plague. Thankfully, we do not have to deal with such a gruesome PPE anymore. Nonetheless, even in these modern times, none of us would want to see a PPE in person as it implies COVID-19 testing or worse, hospitalization. In this episode, we shall deal with intervention protocols before entering the workplace in order to avoid the further spread of the virus.
Perhaps the most important question here… Is COVID-19 Testing mandatory for all employees? Who will shoulder the cost for that?
Nope. Only employees who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and their close contacts in the workplace, are required to undergo COVID-19 Testing. In that case, the employer shall shoulder the cost of testing. If there is no manifestation of infection however, even if the employee concerned interacts regularly to the public, testing is voluntary. Likewise, COVID-19 test result should not be a requirement for pre-employment. 
What if the building owner requires all the employees to undergo COVID-19 Testing? Is that valid?
Nothing in the rules prohibits lessors to require COVID-19 Testing before allowing employees to enter the building. It is valid provided that there is an agreement regarding the same between the owner and the lessee. However, before consenting to the same, it must be remembered that testing has its limitations as the results are valid only in a given period of time.
How about shuttle services? Is that required as well?
It is not. The JMC merely states that it is “enjoined”, meaning highly recommended, for medium to large sized establishments with total assets of more than P 15 Million. Total assets in this case includes those arising from loans but exclusive of the land on which the business entity's office, plant and equipment are situated. Furthermore, it must be noted that arrangements as to cost sharing with the workers are also allowed.
Perhaps I am feeling generous and decide to provide shuttle services to my employees. Do I need to procure a special permit for that?
The LTFRB announced last August that Public Utility Vehicles hired by companies as shuttle services will no longer need to secure special permits. Transportation Assistant Secretary Libiran however announced that drivers of these company shuttles must have on hand a copy of their PUV certificate and authorization letter or letter of intent from the company in case of inspection.
Are there any requirements before I let the employee enter the workplace?
Yes. There are several actually, and we shall go through them one by one. The following safety measures however should be observed within the entrance of the workplace:
1. No facemask, No entry policy;
2. Accomplishment of Health Symptoms Questionnaire for assessment;
3.Temperature checked and recorded in the Health Symptoms Questionnaire (refer to the Annex of the Guidelines);
4. Provision of a well-ventilated holding area;
5. Designated health officer provided with appropriate PPEs;
6. Disinfecting foot baths in all entrances are optional.
I am interested in knowing about the temperature check. Can I let an employee with just a slight fever enter? What’s the threshold?
The temperature must first be checked at the entrance of the building. If unfortunately the body temperature is more than 37.5 degrees Celsius, the employee should be denied entry and referred to the workplace isolation area for further evaluation by the Safety Officer.
If, thankfully, less than 37.5 degree Celsius, the employee shall accomplish a health declaration form such as the template annexed in the guidelines. Questions shall include physical manifestations of COVID-19 symptoms and contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. If an employee answers in the affirmative to any of the questions, the employee should likewise be denied entry and referred to the workplace isolation area for further evaluation by the Safety Officer.
Note that the health declaration form is highly confidential and must be disposed of properly after thirty (30) days from date of accomplishment.
If the employee has a body temperature of less than 37.5 Degree Celsius, does he or she still need to fill up the Questionnaire? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive or even dangerous given that it may result in long queue lines?
YES, all workers are required to answer the daily questionnaire even if he or she appears healthy. The daily questionnaire is not limited to temperature check alone but also on symptoms and travel history. Additional questions may be added as long as this would be useful for determining health condition. Contact tracing information shall be limited to those indicated in the contact tracing form. Additional questions may be asked but these shall not be related to personal information of the workers/visitors.
For companies wishing to avoid long queue lines, they may implement a gliding schedule, work from home when possible, and other work arrangements which may limit the number of workers at a particular time. Note also that the questionnaire may be filled out online.
How about the employees who are provided accommodations? Do they still need to fill out the questionnaire? How about those working from home?
For stay-in workers, companies may opt to use a modified checklist which is limited to questions on signs and symptoms only. However, where stay-in workers are allowed to go home from time to time as part of their work-arrangements, upon their return to work, they shall be required to accomplish the complete prescribed checklist.
Those working from home are also encouraged to fill up the questionnaire. The questionnaire is a means for the worker to perform daily self-assessment and declare their status of health to the employer.
How about visitors? Do all my clients visiting the office have to undergo temperature check and fill up the questionnaire?
As a general rule, YES. All persons, whether or not they are workers, clients or visitors are all required to accomplish the daily questionnaires.
However, for malls, groceries and other public establishments, since a huge volume of clients is expected, establishment/s may just perform temperature check using a non-contact thermometer. In addition, other new normal interventions such as physical distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks and provision of washing facilities shall remain.
How about for buildings? Where and who shall perform the body temperature check and the filling up of questionnaires?
For buildings with multiple tenants, the joint safety and health committee shall be in-charge of the implementation of this DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular. The Committee shall be headed by the building owner or his/her representative with the safety officers of the building’s tenants as members. The tenants may opt to share resources and coordinate their safety and health measures to ensure the successful implementation of this guideline.
Who are the “at risk” workers pertained by the guidelines? Are they allowed to report to work?
Most-at-risk population includes senior citizens, pregnant women, individuals with underlying health conditions and those below 21 years of age. They are encouraged to be under a work-from-home arrangement. However, they are allowed to report to work provided that a certificate of fit to work is issued by the OSH personnel and must stay in the workplace only for specified hours.
That is extra work. Can I include as a criteria for hiring that a candidate must not be a “most-at-risk” person?
Simple answer. No. That is blatant discrimination. 
Before we end, just a fun fact regarding the suits of Black Plague doctors. Accordingly, the red-eye glasses were thought to be capable of warding off the evils spreading the virus, while the beaks were filled with oils and flowers to prevent the person inside from smelling the decaying bodies of the patients. The wax on the coat, on the other hand, was thought to keep the bodily fluids from clinging to the coat.
Similar to that, modern PPE gowns are made of polypropylene with plastic films to offer increased protection from liquid penetration. We can at least see the development, not only in the aesthetics, but also in the capability of medical protective equipment. Stay with us as we develop our narrative to the third installment of our quadrilogy focusing on intervention protocols inside the workplace. Meanwhile, please join our Facebook Group “Business and Labor Forum” for free legal updates. Check the link below.
Photo from: All That’s Interesting available at https://allthatsinteresting.com/plague-doctors
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. You may reach him at email@example.com
 DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph III D in relation to Book 3, Rule 7-A, Sec. 5 of Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Labor Code of the Philippines  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph III D.  Bureau of Working Conditions, Frequently Asked Questions on DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular no 20-04A  Id.  Id in relation to § 3, RA 9501 or Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.  Id.  Announced on 4th of August 2020 by LTFRB Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran.  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 D.  Id.  Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph III B.  Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II D 1.  Id.  Id.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II D.  Bureau of Working Conditions, Frequently Asked Questions on DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular no 20-04A.  Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).  Id.  Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).  Id.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II D.  Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).  Id.  DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph II C.  Id.  Bureau of Working Conditions, Frequently Asked Questions on DTI-DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular no 20-04A.  Bryan Dugan, Anatomy of 14th Century Bubonic Plague Hazmat Suits, available at https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/49217/anatomy-14th-century-bubonic-plague-hazmat-suits?fbclid=IwAR3hxQn5HhTRjN91wM29Rbl1JuBNnaqmbMJEVSZVsqGZ95HQb5dQp6IY9GE (last accessed October 12, 2020).