Cal/OSHA Requires Employers to Protect Workers from Wildfire Smoke

wildfire smoke

As wildfires continue raging throughout California, Cal/OSHA has issued a reminder to employers that they are required to protect their outdoor workers from smoke if the air quality index exceeds 151.

Cal/OSHA has extended an emergency regulation it put in place in August 2019 through January 2021 as it works on a permanent regulation on wildfire smoke protection for outdoor workers in California.

For the safety of your workers and to comply with the regulation, it’s important that you follow the regulations and know when you will need to take action to protect them from outdoor smoke.

The regulation applies when the Air Quality Index (AQI) for airborne Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or smaller is 151 or greater in an area where employees are working outdoors. Here are the details of the regulation: 

Identification – When wildfire smoke affects a worksite, employers must monitor the air quality index (AQI) for PM2.5. Employers can monitor the AQI using the following websites:

Communication – Employers must implement a system for communicating wildfire smoke hazards in a form readily understandable by all affected employees, including provisions designed to encourage employees to inform the employer of wildfire smoke hazards without fear of reprisal.

Training and instruction – Employers with outdoor workers need to provide training that covers at least:

  • The health effects of wildfire smoke.
  • The right to obtain medical treatment without fear of reprisal.
  • How employees can obtain the current Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5.
  • Possible actions they must take if the AQI exceeds 150 PM 2.5

Options for protecting workers – The regulation provides three ways employers can protect their workers:

  1. Modifications – If possible, employers should implement modifications to the workplace, to reduce exposure. Examples include providing enclosed structures or vehicles for employees to work in, where the air is filtered.
  2. Changes to procedures and schedules – Another option is to change work procedures or schedules. Examples include changing the location where employees work or reducing the amount of time they work outdoors or exposed to unfiltered outdoor air.
  3. Respiratory protection – Employers also have the option to provide proper respiratory protection equipment, such as disposable respirators, for voluntary use without fit-testing.

To filter out fine particles, respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99, or P-100, and must be labeled as approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

If the AQI is above 300, fit-testing and a medical examination prior to use would be mandatory.

The takeaway

If you do have outside workers who are confronted with working in smoky conditions, you should start stockpiling two-week supply of N95 masks for all of your workers if you are unable to implement other controls to reduce their exposure.

Cal/OSHA is in the rule making process to make the emergency regulations permanent and has sent out public comment notices on the proposed regulation. We will continue monitoring the agency’s progress on the rules and update you when they have been completed.

COVID-19 Claims Growing Among California Workers

workers' compensation claims

The number of COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims in California has seen a steady climb, reaching a total of 31,612 from when the pandemic started until the end of July, according to the latest figures from the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

In July, 9,515 California workers filed COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims, as well as 74 coronavirus-related worker deaths ― bringing the total to 140 fatalities. The total claims account for 10% of all claims filed between January and July, despite the first claims being filed only in March.

These numbers are fluid and are certain to grow as more claims are filed after the fact, as there are often time lags in claims filings.

For example:

May claims ― As of July 6, there were 3,889 claims, but as of Aug. 10 the number had risen to 4,606.

June claims ― As of July 6, there were 4,438 COVID-19 workers’ comp claims. But as of Aug. 10, that figure for June claims had more than doubled to 10,528. 

Based on these claims development stats, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute projects there could ultimately be 29,354 COVID-19 claims with July injury dates and 56,082 COVID-19 claims with January through July injury dates.

Who is filing claims?

The top five sectors reporting COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims during the first seven months of the year are:

  • Health care workers (40% of all claims)
  • Public safety/government workers (6%)
  • Retail workers (8%)
  • Manufacturing (7%)
  • Transportation (5%).

Handling workers’ comp claims

In early May, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order extending workers’ compensation benefits to California employees who contract COVID-19 while working outside of their homes during the state’s stay-at-home order.

To qualify for the presumption, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The worker must test positive for or be diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after a day they worked at your jobsite at your direction.
  • The day they worked at your jobsite was on or after March 19.
  • Your jobsite is not their home or residence.
  • If your worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, the diagnosis was done by a medical doctor and confirmed by a positive test for COVID-19 within 30 days of the date of the diagnosis.

Even when an employee is presumed to have become ill from COVID-19 at work, the employer may dispute that conclusion. In such a case, however, you bear the burden of proving that the injury or illness did not occur at work.

The executive order does not apply to COVID-19-related claims, regardless of date of injury, that were accepted by the claims administrator as compensable prior to May 6.

All of the typical workers’ compensation benefits apply:

Medical care ― Reasonable and necessary medical treatment paid for by your employer to help you recover from an injury or illness caused by work.

Temporary disability benefits ― Payments if you lose wages because your injury prevents you from doing your usual job while recovering.

Permanent disability benefits ― Payments if you don’t recover completely.

Supplemental job displacement benefits ― Vouchers to help pay for retraining or skill enhancement if you don’t recover completely and don’t return to work for your employer.

Death benefits – Payments to your spouse, children or other dependents if you die from a job injury or illness.

The takeaway

If you have an employee who is working on site and who tests positive for COVID-19, you should let them know about their rights to file for workers’ compensation if they miss work and/or need treatment.

The state’s insurance commissioner has approved new rules that bar insurers from using any COVID-19 claims against your experience modifier (X-Mod), so it won’t hurt your workers’ compensation experience if a worker files a claim.

Dealing with Violent Customers Who Refuse to Wear Masks

wearing a mask at work

As many states and municipalities have issued mandatory mask orders for businesses that are open to the public, operators like retailers and restaurants have been thrust into the front lines of reducing the spread of the virus by requiring customers to wear masks when on their premises.

This has led to confrontations that sometimes result in violence — and even in the deaths of some workers.

Due to the volatility of some of these confrontations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a guide for limiting workplace violence associated with COVID-19. The guidance recommends:

  • Offering customers options to minimize their contact with others and promote social distancing. These can include curbside pick-up; personal shoppers; home delivery for groceries, food and other services; and alternative shopping hours.
  • Posting signs that let customers know about policies for wearing masks, social distancing, and the maximum number of people allowed in a business facility.
  • Advertising COVID-19-related policies on your website.
  • Providing employee training on threat recognition, conflict resolution, non-violent response, and on any other relevant topics related to workplace violence response.
  • Putting in place steps to assess and respond to workplace violence. Response will depend on the severity of the violence and on the size and structure of the business. Possible responses may include reporting to a manager or supervisor on-duty, calling security or calling 911.
  • Remaining aware of and supporting employees and customers if a threatening or violent situation occurs.
  • Assigning two workers to work as a team to encourage COVID-19 prevention policies to be followed, if staffing permits.
  • Installing security systems (e.g., panic buttons, cameras, alarms) and training employees on how to use them.
  • Identifying a safe area for employees to go to if they feel they are in danger (e.g., a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).

Training on warning signs and response

Employee training on workplace violence typically covers definitions and types of violence, risk factors and warning signs for violence, prevention strategies, and ways to respond to threatening, potentially violent, or violent situations.

Warning signs — As part of training, employees often learn verbal and non-verbal cues that may be warning signs of possible violence. Verbal cues can include speaking loudly or swearing.

Non-verbal cues can include clenched fists, heavy breathing, a fixed stare and pacing. The more cues shown, the greater the risk of violence.

Response — During training, employees also learn how to appropriately respond to potentially violent or violent situations.

Responses range from paying attention to a person and maintaining non-threatening eye contact, to using supportive body language and avoiding threatening gestures, such as finger-pointing or crossed arms.

Consider implementing a “tap-out” system that allows an employee to make a signal for a supervisor or other employee to step in and the at-risk staff member to walk away.

Employee responsibilities guidelines

  1. Attend all employer-provided training on how to recognize, avoid and respond to potentially violent situations.
  2. Report perceived threats or acts of violence to your manager or supervisor, following any existing policies that may be in place.
  3. Remain aware of and support co-workers and customers if a threatening or violent situation occurs.
  4. Do not argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent. If needed, go to a safe area, (ideally, a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).
  5. Do not attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention policies or other polices or practices related to COVID-19 (such as limits on the number of household or food products that can be bought).

Courts Rule COVID-19 Business Interruption Claims Invalid

business interruption

As second court has ruled that an insurer does not have to pay business interruption claims by businesses that saw their revenues run dry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will further make it difficult for business to successfully file such claims.

In the most recent case, a Superior Court judge in the District of Colombia in August ruled that an insurer is not obligated to pay business interruption claims of the owner of several restaurants after the mayor ordered all restaurants to close in response to the coronavirus. The judge ruled that in order for the business interruption claims to be valid there must have been physical loss or damage and that the plaintiffs failed to prove any they suffered any such losses.

The ruling comes on the heels of a Michigan state court decision in July that also sided with Michigan Insurance Company in a case brought by the owner of two restaurants whose $650,000 business interruption claim the insurer had denied.

These two cases are closely following the wording of typical business property policies that also include business interruption coverage caused by physical damage.

In the D.C. case, there were several plaintiffs: Lead plaintiff Rose 1 LLC, which is owned by chef Aaron Silverman, and which operates a number of upscale restaurants including Rose’s Luxury, Elaine’s One, Pineapple and Pearl’s and Little Pearl. Other plaintiffs included Buttercream Bakeshop, Karma Modern Indian, El Cucho, Bar Charley, La Vie and Beuchert’s Saloon.

Mayor Muriel Bowser had issued orders on banning indoor dining, for residents to shelter at home and for all non-essential businesses to close. The restaurants filed claims on their commercial property policy with Eire Insurance Company, which included coverage for loss of income and/or rental income from a partial or total interruption of business that results directly from loss or damage to the insured property.

The restaurants after the claim was rejected, arguing that the loss of use of their restaurants was a direct physical loss because the closures were the direct result of the mayor’s orders.

The plaintiffs argued that the losses were physical because the coronavirus is “material” and “tangible.” But, the judge pointed out that the plaintiffs failed to show that the virus was present in their properties and that the mayor’s orders did not materially or tangibly affect the restaurants.

Business interruption cover

Business law attorneys say business around the country have filed hundreds of coronavirus-related business interruption lawsuits after seeing their claims rejected. The issue mainly comes down to policy wording.

Most business property policies also cover business interruption claims, but policies usually specify that there must be physical damage to property. The policies are typically tapped to losses resulting from damage to a business caused by a natural catastrophe. Additionally, most business interruption portions of policies explicitly exclude pandemic.

Most policies require there to be some type of direct physical loss or damage to either your premises or some part of your supply chain in order to trigger business interruption coverage. Without that trigger, insurers would likely argue that a virus in your facility is not physical loss or damage.

But these are early days in the litigation front as more cases are decided and appealed, we should have a clearer picture of COVID-19 business interruption coverage.

More Employers Ask Workers to Sign COVID-19 Waivers, but They May Not Be Legal

sign waiver

As lawsuits against employers continue rising amid the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses are requiring workers to sign waivers absolving them of liability and responsibility should they contract the virus.

Eight percent of executives surveyed by law firm Blank Rome said they would require that their workers sign waivers of liability before returning to the workplace.

While employers are trying to protect themselves from a liability that didn’t even exist a year ago, some human resources legal experts have expressed concerns that they may not be necessary ― and may be unenforceable.

The moves come as employers are wrestling with numerous risks that the pandemic has wrought, and with the U.S. Senate having proposed legislation that would limit the liability of employers for workers who become sick during the pandemic. A number of states have also enacted laws or emergency regulations that make it harder for employees to sue employers for negligence over COVID-19.

COVID-19-spurred employee lawsuits have mostly centered on employers not providing the proper protections for workers, discrimination or for being laid off for refusing to come to work.

Legal experts caution that employers cannot require workers to waive rights they may have, such as access to workers’ compensation benefits or the right to file a complaint with OSHA.

They also say that some employers may consider waivers as a green light to not take precautions against COVID-19, but in such cases the waivers would likely not be legal.

If a worker claims they caught COVID-19 at work and the facts back that up, they would likely have access to workers’ compensation benefits (some states even require it). But if the employer was negligent, the employee could have further legal avenues to pursue besides workers’ compensation, rights that cannot legally be waived, lawyers say.

So even if an employee were to sign a document waiving their right to file a complaint if they feel their employer is being negligent, they may still have recourse.

Requiring workers to sign waivers could present a number of legal issues, according to the law website <i>nolo.com</i>, including:

  • Courts in some states are reluctant to enforce liability waivers in the workplace because of the superior bargaining power of employers over their staff.
  • Workplace morale could suffer if your employees think you are placing your own economic interests above workplace safety.
  • Any waiver employees sign would not protect your firm from lawsuits filed by their families should they contract COVID-19 if staff are infected at work.
  • A waiver might be unnecessary in states that have passed laws granting immunity to employers for claims made by workers infected with the virus.

Another option

While employees who refuse to sign a waiver of their company’s liability may have grounds to challenge their employer, some liability lawyers say that employers instead of a waiver can ask their staff to sign a social contract that requires:

  • The employer to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work, and
  • The workers to comply with their employer’s requirements on mandates on wearing masks, social distancing and not coming to work if they have symptoms or of they think they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

This type of agreement won’t protect an employer from a lawsuit, but it does spell out that they are following authorities’ recommendation for protecting employees.

While employees who refuse to sign a waiver of their company’s liability could have grounds to sue, those who sign this type of acknowledgement of new workplace rules and government guidance are less likely to be successful if they are fired for not signing. This is because the acknowledgement is not forcing them to give up any of their rights and is rather for their and their co-workers’ protection.

These social contracts also would provide workers with a list of their responsibilities when working during the COVID-19 pandemic, and outline what their employer is doing to protect them.

Insurers Don’t Have to Pay for Testing Returning Workers: HHS

covid-19 testing

New guidance from the Trump administration absolves insurers of the responsibility of paying for COVID-19 tests that are required for workers who are returning to the job.

The guidance, released by the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury, means that employers will likely either have to foot the bill themselves as they screen workers during the pandemic or pass those costs on to their workers. But in states that require employers to test workers, passing testing costs on to staff is usually not an option.

There had been some confusion about who would pay for the tests after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act required insurers to cover COVID-19 tests without patient cost-sharing. The new guidance has added a new caveat to that rule: that insurers cannot require health plan enrollees to pay for the test if it is deemed “medically appropriate” by a health care provider.

“Testing conducted to screen for general workplace health and safety (such as employee “return to work” programs), for public health surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, or for any other purpose not primarily intended for individualized diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19 or another health condition, is beyond the scope of section 6001 of the [Families First Coronavirus Response Act],” the guidance states.

Resistance from advocacy groups

The guidance was met with resistance from employer and consumer groups, with the advocacy group Families USA arguing that the nation’s workers should not be saddled with additional costs during these economically uncertain times.

Employers can require employees to be tested before returning to work, but the Pacific Business Group on Health said it would be highly unusual for a large employer to require testing for employees without paying for the tests in full.

Democrats have asked the administration to withdraw the guidance, but the White House has said it won’t and that it would like to see Congress come up with a solution in its next economic stimulus package for the coronavirus pandemic.

The HHS has said that states should use the $10.25 billion that lawmakers appropriated for testing to help pay for tests of returning workers.

Insurance companies may opt to pay for such tests anyway, as a precautionary measure. America’s Health Insurance Plans, however, is calling on more government support to cover the costs, which it says could be between $6 billion and $25 billion annually.

Five Steps for Protecting the Data of Your Firm, Customers and Employees

cybersecurity

In this era of connectedness, increased telecommuting, smartphones that keep staff connected to the office and cyber criminals constantly waging attacks on businesses, you need to do all you can to protect your firm’s, employees’ and customers’ data.

It’s a heavy lift to try to set up protocols for the various areas where hackers and bots can infiltrate your company’s database, and for a small company the task could be overwhelming. But if you approach your cyber security by focusing on the main pinch points — your greatest vulnerabilities — you can put together a coherent and effect cyber defense.

You can divide your focus among five distinct areas and create clear initiatives for each:

Physical space

The first vulnerability is your office and your network hardware, where even a small oversight can lead to significant losses in hardware and data. Strong security controls of physical environments are a critical foundation for your business.

What you can do: Always lock your network closet or room and other sensitive locations. Use high-security locks and numbered, physical keys with restrictions on duplication. If it makes sense for your business, install video surveillance at entrances and exits. Don’t trust your memory — maintain a device and computer inventory.

People

Numerous people encounter your firm’s data, including full- and part-time employees, contractors, interns and clients. Anyone who has access to business devices, spaces and apps is vulnerable to unwittingly giving away information.

What you can do: Call us to confirm that your cyber liability insurance reflects your actual risks and that you have the correct coverage and riders you may need. You should conduct security-awareness for your staff (and new hires) regularly to show them what you expect in terms of protecting your company’s data. This can include theft prevention and minimizing data leakage, to protecting sensitive data and what to do in the event of a suspected breach.

Also, train them how to detect social-engineering hacking scams. Cover how these scams work by trying to trick your staff into clicking on links in e-mails that contained phishing, malware or ransomware. They should look for spoofed names or e-mail addresses in the e-mails which will often ask employee for passwords or to click on an attachment.

Apps

Applications may be cloud-based or stored on devices. While it can be challenging to manage the many apps people use on their devices, there are best practices for keeping data away from the people who want to use it against you.

What you can do: Ensure that all apps that your staff use on company-issued phones use two-factor authentication (and strongly urge them to follow this practice if they are using their own devices for work). Restrict app permissions to only the few people who should really have it. Also set the apps to automatically update, so as to ensure you are always using the software with the latest security patches.

Finally, enable security notifications so that suspicious activity, such as adding a new user without approval, doesn’t go unnoticed.

Mobile devices

Smartphones and tablets hold most — if not all — of your most sensitive data. Working remotely is gaining popularity, and with that comes a responsibility to learn how to treat your devices like the highly valuable possessions they are.

What you can do: Enable remote wipe and location tracking on your employees’ tablets and smartphones in case of the devices being lost or stolen. Do not use public Wi-Fi. Your employees should only use trusted Wi-Fi, VPN or their mobile hotspot.

Require a password, PIN or biometrics to unlock phones. And, because there will be sensitive documents and e-mail on your employees’ devices, be sure they have enabled local data encryption. Double-check this, as not all devices will have it turned on by default.

Networks

Your network is at the heart of your company’s connectivity and operations. It connects to all of your company’s devices and apps, as well as to the internet. This is the gateway to your business, so it should be regularly maintained and kept secure.

What you can do: For the visitors and vendors who occasionally need to use your network or internet connection, create separate guest and private networks. Do a little research or ask a trusted IT expert and use the latest Wi-Fi encryption standards.

Finally, so much of network security is about management. Know which employee has what equipment by logging and auditing access to devices. Don’t wait for disaster to strike; proactively monitor, manage, update and secure devices, along with creating strong passwords.

Getting started

If you are a small business, all of the above is likely overwhelming, but if you put together smart processes and planning you can reduce your risks, such as:

  • Having processes in place for handing out equipment (keys, laptops, mobile devices) when hiring, and how to handle technology during terminations.
  • Planning and holding scheduled cybersecurity training.
  • Using a password management tool for all of your staff.
  • Calling us about cyber insurance.

New Telecommuter Class Code in the Works

telecommuters

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s workers’ compensation rating agency plans to implement a new class code for telecommuting employees on Jan. 1, 2021.

The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California started work on the new classification after swaths of companies ordered employees that could work remotely to start working at home after the state and local governments issued stay-at-home orders to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The new code for telecommuting workers will be 8871. Under a prior emergency rule, the Rating Bureau had recommended that employees who were thrust into telecommuting because of the COVID-19 outbreak be assigned the 8810 “Clerical Administration Employee” code.

This is a major change in the class code structure and will affect employers throughout the state, so it’s important that you prepare for it if you have staff working from home.

While the telecommuting code will be new to California, a similar code ― 8871 “Clerical Telecommuter Employees” ― has already been in use for a few years in a number of other states where the National Council on Compensation Insurance serves as the rating bureau.

To qualify for that class code, an employee must spend “more than 50% of their time performing clerical duties from a clerical work area located within their home.”

Additionally, the NCCI released an advisory in March 2020 that employers should start reporting class code 8871 for employees who have been asked to work from home due to the pandemic.

The specifics

Up until now, in California, telecommuting employees whose duties meet the definition of clerical employees in the California Workers’ Compensation Uniform Statistical Reporting Plan have been assigned class code 8810 “Clerical Office Employees,” or their employer’s standard classification if that classification specifically includes clerical office employees.

The Rating Bureau has proposed that class code 8871 be the code for clerical employees who work more than 50% of their time at their home or other office space that is not on the employer’s premises. This will help the Bureau track accident and injury rates for telecommuting employees, and it will align California’s class code system with those of a majority of states (the NCCI is the rating bureau in 38 states).

As mentioned, the class code will be used only if the class code for the employer does not include clerical employees. Currently there are 41 class codes that include clerical staff. There are also two codes that specifically exclude them.

If a company includes all of its staff in the same code, any clerical staff on its payroll are not assigned the 8810 Clerical Employee class code and are instead assigned the code for the company as a whole.

For the sake of continuity, the Rating Bureau has recommended that those 43 class codes be amended to specifically include or exclude clerical telecommuting staff.

What you should do

If you have staff on your payroll who are telecommuting, you should start preparing your accounting or bookkeeping software to add in this code for when your policy comes due in 2021. Starting work on this now can help your insurer more accurately price your future policies, or when they decide to audit your payroll.

Conversely, you should not attempt to change the class code for your currently telecommuting employees now or at any time before Jan. 1, 2021, as the final rules have not yet been written, approved or promulgated. They also need to be approved by the state insurance commissioner.

The Rating Bureau plans to apply the rate for the class code for clerical employees to the new class code for the first few years and until it can gather enough data to set a unique rate for the code. That could take a number of years, as the Bureau typically uses a window of the past three years of claims experience and costs when setting class code rates.

Insurance Costs Related to COVID-19 Could Top $100 billion

insurance cost

COVID-19-related losses for property-casualty insurers are likely to top $100 billion, with workers’ compensation accounting for about a third of all payouts, according to a new report by Wells Fargo & Co.

The report estimates that workers’ compensation could see total COVID-19 claims payouts of up to $34 billion, but that factors like the severity of workers’ comp cases and the number of deaths will determine the final payouts. This may spur rate hikes in workers’ compensation after years of soft pricing in most of the country.

The majority of workers’ compensation claims are likely to be in the health care sector, and the rest among “essential workers” who have had to remain on the job

One report by the Division of Workers’ Compensation at the Florida Department of Financial Services found that health care workers and those working in protective services accounted for 83.3% of COVID-19 indemnity workers’ comp claims filed in Florida as of May 31.

The Wells Fargo report forecasts that the claims are likely to put pressure on rates for number of lines of insurance. Besides workers’ compensation, it predicts that these other lines will see significant claims payouts:

Business interruption — The second-highest claims payouts, the report states, will be for business interruption losses related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Wells Fargo estimates that total claims payouts will be between $4 billion and $24 billion.

However, most business interruption coverage, which is typically tied to commercial property policies, does not cover losses from pandemics. That said, some stand-alone policies have had more liberal coverage wording that will require the insurers to pay the claims.

Event cancellation — The report estimates that event cancellation losses will account for nearly 30% of industry losses. This insurance protects event revenues and related expenses against the risks of cancellation, postponement, curtailment, relocation or abandonment of an event for unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the event organizer.

Beyond the lost revenue, the costs of canceling a large event can run into the tens of millions of dollars, sometimes more. While the specific terms of event cancellation policies vary, many offer broad “all-risk” or “all-cause” coverage that is triggered by any unexpected cause that is not expressly excluded under the policy.

Other policies, however, are written such that only specific causes or risks (like terrorism or natural catastrophe) trigger coverage.

While some event cancellation policies include exclusions for infectious or communicable diseases (which would include COVID-19), many do not.

Other lines of insurance that could sustain losses due to the pandemic include:

  • Travel insurance — Issues that could come into play include emergency evacuation, repatriation and out-of-country medical benefits that cover costs for the treatment and transportation of sick or injured employees. Policies typically offer optional coverage for unexpected medical expenses.
  • Directors and officers liability — These claims could concern legal action for not taking timely measures regarding COVID-19 to protect the organization, as well as legal action for financial damage or even insolvency. 

The topside

The report also notes that there are some lines of insurance that could benefit from lower claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief among these is commercial auto, due to the substantial decrease in vehicle accidents as there have been fewer cars on the roads at a time of shelter-at-home orders.

Adjustable Workstations Key to Reducing Injuries

construction workers

Musculoskeletal disorders from manual labor in factories, construction, printing and warehouse work are one of the most common types of workplace injuries and account for one-third of all workers’ compensation costs.

These injuries take a profound economic toll on both workers who suffer these injuries and on employers who pay more for their workers’ comp premiums. There are also indirect costs, such as training replacement personnel, retraining workers, lost productivity and reduced morale.

To reduce the chances of MSDs among your workers, make sure their workstations are ergonomically designed and optimized for safety and efficiency of use.

One of the best ways to reduce these types of injuries is to ensure that workers of different sizes and physical limitations can work in the same area without straining themselves and developing an MSD.

The height of the work area is a significant factor in these types of injuries. Usually the height is stationary, but one size does not fit all. Someone who is too short or too tall for a standing work area will have to strain to work in a position that is not optimal.

The adjustable workstation

While for some workstations a standard size cannot be avoided, in many cases it’s best to have workstations with adjustable heights. Height adjustability is useful not only for very tall or very short people, though.

For specific tasks, the ability to adjust the bench top to the application may help workers of all sizes execute tasks more ergonomically.

An adjustable workspace can accommodate the majority of workers in ways that reduce stresses and strains, whether they differ by height, reach capabilities, strength or flexibility. If you have an adjustable workspace, a tall and short worker can use the same work area by simply adjusting the height when they start their shift.

Avoiding neck strains

Besides a workspace that moves up and down, you should also make sure that the worker doesn’t have to strain to read documents or screens or type on a keyboard, such as when they are sitting on the surface of the workstation.

While this may seem like a small thing, a worker who has to look down at an extreme angle at papers or a screen on a table every day for years can develop neck disorders and injuries. They may not be as severe as a sprain or a strain, but they can still impair the individual’s ability to work ― and over time could require surgery and rehab.

Sometimes the solution is simple, such as using a height-adjustable arm to hold documents or a screen. You can also have an articulating keyboard tray that moves up and down so the worker can adjust it at an optimal height and not have to strain to type.

These solutions are inexpensive and will reduce the chances of employees straining to read documents or screens or type. Using these simple tools will also make your workers more efficient. Like height adjustability, these arms will work for people of various heights and sizes.

The takeaway

The key to ergonomics is to make the environment fit the worker, not vice versa. This can be accomplished in many ways, ranging from facility design to equipment specification to process design.

By homing in on the workstation, you can greatly reduce the chances of your workers developing an MSD.