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Coronavirus and the Workplace

By Benefits, Business Insurance, HR Services, Safety Services

Coronavirus and the Workplace

Compliance Issues for Employers

 

As the number of reported cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace.

Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, but are also subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers. For example, employers must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in their approach to dealing with COVID-19.

There are a number of steps that employers can take to address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition to reviewing the compliance concerns outlined in this Compliance Bulletin, employers should:

• Closely monitor the CDC, WHO and state and local public health department websites for information on the status of the coronavirus.
• Proactively educate their employees on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention.
• Establish a written communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace.
• Consider measures that can help prevent the spread of illness, such as allowing employees flexible work options like working from home. are enforced.

What is the Coronavirus?

The 2019 novel coronavirus (“COVID-19” or “coronavirus”) is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, runny nose, cough and trouble breathing. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some, usually people with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The incubation period for COVID-19 is from two to 14 days.
Initially detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. Since then, the disease has spread to more than 50 people within the continental United States, with CDC officials warning of further outbreaks.

How is Coronavirus Spread?

The available information about how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about its transmission, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States.
According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may also be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, and there have been reports of this occurring, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Disease Prevention in the Workplace

Whenever a communicable disease outbreak is possible, employers may need to take precautions to keep the disease from spreading through the workplace. It is recommended that employers establish a written policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace.
Employers can require employees to stay home from work if they have signs or symptoms of a communicable disease that poses a credible threat of transmission in the workplace, or if they have traveled to high-risk geographic areas, such as those with widespread or sustained community transmission of the illness. When possible, employers can consider allowing employees to work remotely. Employers may require employees to provide medical documentation that they can return to work.
Employers can consider canceling business travel to affected geographic areas and may request that employees notify them if they are traveling to these areas for personal reasons. Employees who travel to China should be informed that they may be quarantined or otherwise required to stay away from work until they can provide medical documentation that they are free of symptoms.
There are several legal considerations that employers should keep in mind when implementing and administering a communicable illness policy. These considerations are addressed in the following sections.

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the OSH Act), employers have a general duty to provide employees with safe workplace conditions that are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Workers also have the right to receive information and training about workplace hazards, and to exercise their rights as employees without retaliation. There is no specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. In addition to the General Duty clause, OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards and Bloodborne Pathogens standard may apply to certain workplaces, such as those in the healthcare industry.

Employers should continue to monitor the development of COVID-19 and analyze whether employees could be at risk of exposure. It is also important for employers to consider what preventative measures they can take to maintain safety and protect their employees from potentially contracting COVID-19.
Also, OSHA requires many employers to record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA Form 300 (OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). OSHA has determined that COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job. Establishments that are required to complete an OSHA 300 log should be sure to include all COVID-19 infections that are work related.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects applicants and employees from disability discrimination. It is relevant to COVID-19 because it prohibits employee disability-related inquiries or medical examinations unless:

• They are job related and consistent with business necessity; or
• The employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety of him-or herself or others (i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm even with reasonable accommodation).

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whether a particular outbreak rises to the level of a “direct threat” depends on the severity of the illness. Employers are expected to make their best efforts to obtain public health advice that is contemporaneous and appropriate for their location, and to make reasonable assessments of conditions in their workplace based on this information.

The EEOC has said that sending an employee home who displays symptoms of contagious illness would not violate the ADA’s restrictions on disability-related actions because advising such workers to go home is not a disability-related action if the illness ends up being mild, such as a seasonal influenza. On the other hand, if the illness were serious enough, the action would be permitted under the ADA as the illness would pose a “direct threat.” In either case, an employer may send employees home, or allow employees to work from home, if they are displaying symptoms of contagious illness.

The ADA requires that information about the medical condition or history of an employee, obtained through disability-related inquiries or medical examination, be collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and treated as a confidential medical record. Employers should refrain from announcing to employees that a coworker is at risk of or actually has a disease. Instead, employers should focus on educating employees on best practices for illness prevention.

Employee Leave Requirements

If an employee, or an employee’s family member, contracts COVID-19, the employee may be entitled to time off from work under federal or state leave laws. For example, an employee who is experiencing a serious health condition or who requires time to care for a family member with such a condition may be entitled to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An illness like COVID-19 may qualify as a serious health condition under the FMLA if it involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Employees may also be entitled to FMLA leave when taking time off for medical examinations to determine whether a serious health condition exists.

Many states and localities also have employee leave laws that could apply in a situation where the employee or family member contracts COVID-19. Some of these laws require employees to be given paid time off, while other laws require unpaid leave. Employers should become familiar with the laws in their jurisdiction to ensure that they are compliant.

Some employees may wish to stay home from work out of fear of becoming ill. Whether employers must accommodate these requests will depend on whether there is evidence that the employee may be at risk of contracting the disease. A refusal to work may violate an employer’s attendance policy, but employers should consult with legal counsel prior to disciplining such an employee. However, if there is no reasonable basis to believe that the employee will be exposed to the illness at work, the employee may not have to be paid for any time that is missed.

Compensation and Benefits

If employees miss work due to COVID-19, whether they are compensated for their time off will depend on the circumstances. As noted above, employees may be entitled to paid time off under certain state laws if they (or a family member) contract the illness. In other cases, non-exempt employees generally do not have to be paid for time they are not working. Exempt employees must be paid if they work for part of a workweek, but do not have to be paid if they are off work for the entire week. Note that special rules may apply to union employees, depending on the terms of their collective bargaining agreement.

Employees may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract the disease during the course of their employment. For example, employees in the healthcare industry may contract the disease from a patient who is ill. Whether an employee is eligible for other benefits, such as short-term disability benefits, will depend on the terms of the policy and the severity of the employee’s illness.

Communicating with Employees

As part of their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers should consider communicating information about the illness to employees. The CDC, WHO and OSHA have all created informational material on the virus and its symptoms, prevention and treatment that can be helpful for employees.

Highlights

COVID-19

The illness caused by the coronavirus can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Cases are expected to spread throughout the United States.

Disease Prevention

Employers must maintain a safe work environment for employees. They may require employees to stay home from work if they are at risk of spreading the disease.

Legal Obligations

Employers must also consider their obligations under workplace laws.

 

Information Resources

CDC

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

World Health Organization

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

OSHA

Safety and Health Topics: COVID-19

 

Control Your Mod

By Business Insurance, Insurance, Safety Services

Top 10 Ways To Control Your Mod

Your experience modification factor, or mod, is an important component used in calculating your workers’ compensation premium. If you can control your mod, you can lower your price — so we’ve gathered top tips to help you impact your bottom line.

 

  1. Investigate accidents immediately and thoroughly; take corrective action to eliminate hazards, and be aware of fraud.
  2. Report all claims to your carrier immediately. Alert the carrier to any serious, potentially serious or suspect claims. Frequently monitor the status of the claim, and communicate with the adjuster to resolve them as quickly as possible.
  3. Take an aggressive approach to providing light duty to all injured employees upon their release from treatment. Supervise light duty employees to ensure their conformance with restrictions.
  4. In serious cases that involve lost time, communicate with the claims adjuster to demonstrate your interest in returning the injured employee back to gainful employment.
  5. Set safety performance goals for those with supervisory responsibility. Success in achieving safety goals should be used as one measure during performance appraisals.
  6. Develop a written safety program, and train employees in their responsibilities for safety. Incorporate a disciplinary policy into the program that holds employees accountable for breaking rules or rewards them for correctly following safety procedures.
  7. Frequently communicate with employees, both formally and informally, regarding the importance of safety.
  8. Make safety a priority – senior management must be visible in the safety effort and must support improvement.
  9. Evaluate accident history and near-misses at least monthly. Look for trends in experience, and take corrective action on the worst problems first.
  10. Talk to your BHI Advisor, Account Manager, or Director of Risk Control to ensure success.

BHI is Insurance. Done Differently.

By Benefits, Business Insurance, HR Services, Insurance, Personal Insurance, Safety Services


John Boykin
President & CEO
BHI

Business owners have so much on their plate these days, and many times the last thing on their mind is insurance. As a business owner, what do you think about when someone says the word “insurance”? Does it bore you? Do you roll your eyes? When was the last time you reviewed your insurance portfolio? Even the word itself has a bit of an outdated and traditional undertone. We get it, and we’re doing everything we can to change the market and our client and prospects’ antiquated outlook on “insurance.” We believe it’s one of the most important pieces to put in place for business continuity and not worthless paper stacked on a shelf that you hope you never have to use!

Let’s take this one step further as it’s not just about proper insurance coverage for your business. It’s about mitigating all types of risks that involve your employees, clients, and third parties. Insurance should be part of a much greater risk management approach that considers safety, human resources, and health and wellness practices – all important things in a successful business, and cost-savers if implemented strategically.

At BHI, we have set out to do insurance differently than your traditional broker. We aim to be more like your Insurance Consultant, rather than just your broker. We are comprised of industry specialists in Property & Casualty (P&C) insurance, benefits, human resources and safety with a common love for doing good business. We believe that having proper insurance policies and risk mitigation strategies in place is the foundation to doing good business.

Think about it like this – if we make an error or fail to include an important coverage in your portfolio, you can lose your whole business. Imagine the worst thing that can happen to your business – a fire, a cyber attack, an accident resulting in fatalities – are you covered in these scenarios? We are here to tell you from experience that these types of things DO happen, so it’s important to review your coverage regularly and choose a broker who isn’t just your broker, but a consultant to your business.

We operate by the following mission: BHI is the opposite of a traditional insurance brokerage, offering not only Commercial and Personal Insurance, but also Benefits, and Safety/Risk Control and HR Consulting.

Instead of sitting back and waiting for policies to renew, we proactively mitigate risk, share knowledge, and employ creative strategies to stay at the forefront of ever-changing client needs. We work harder and smarter than our competitors, tackling challenges with tenacious persistence and endless drive. In our industry, people accept subpar service—we’re here so they don’t have to.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John joined BHI in 2006 as a part-time advisor, became a partner in 2010 and President/CEO in 2016. His primary role is that of an insurance advisor, working with industry leaders to implement insurance and risk management strategies that are a best fit for each client. In addition to John’s role as an advisor, he oversees all financial and strategic initiatives for BHI. He has experience dealing with multiple insurance strategies, including guaranteed cost, loss sensitive and captive insurance programs, for organizations and businesses across most industries. John is licensed to sell insurance in 43 states and to date, has sold over $100,000,000 in Property & Casualty Insurance premiums.

Most recently, John has been honored by Delaware Business Times as one of their 40 Under 40 Leaders. DBT presents this award to “role models who are striving to make a difference in our community.” Under John’s leadership, BHI was also named a Fastest 50 award winner, signaling BHI’s growth and placement as a premier brokerage in the Mid- Atlantic region.

A lifelong Delawarean, John resides in Hockessin with his two children, Jack and Bailey.

This article is featured on Delaware Business Times – BIZINSIGHTS. For full access, click here.

We Are BHI

By Business Insurance, Employee Benefits, HR Services, Personal Insurance, Safety Services

We are BHI

An independent insurance agency that provides Insurance,
Benefits, Human Resources, and Safety Solutions
to businesses and individuals in
the mid-Atlantic and beyond.

 

 

We’re here when you need us most.
Call, email or stop by.
111 Ruthar Drive
Newark, DE 19711
Phone: 302-995-2247
Fax: 302-995-2220
Insurance@BHI365.com

 

OSHA: Employee Discipline, Drug Testing, and Incentive Programs

By Safety Services

On May 12, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule, including anti-retaliation provisions, requiring certain employers to electronically submit data from their work-related injury records to OSHA. On Oct. 19, 2016, OSHA published an interpretation of how the anti-retaliation provisions affect employee discipline, drug and alcohol testing, and safety incentive programs.

The Anti-Retaliation Provisions

According to OSHA, the final rule clarifies existing law regarding employee anti-retaliation protections. Specifically, OSHA’s anti-retaliation provisions:

  • Require employers to inform employees that they have a right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation;
  • Direct employers to adopt reasonable procedures (“not unduly burdensome” and does not “deter or discourage”) that employees can use to report work-related injuries and illnesses; and
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees solely because they report work-related injuries or illnesses.

Read More

Post Your OSHA Injury Summary by Feb. 1

By Business Insurance, Safety Services

Reminder: Employers Must Post Injury/Illness Summary Beginning February 1

Posting Requirement

OSHA reminds employers of their obligation to post a copy of OSHA’s Form 300A, which summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses logged during 2017. Each year, between February 1 and April 30, the summary must be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees and those in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from OSHA recordkeeping and posting requirements. Visit OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule webpage for more information on recordkeeping requirements. Read More