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COVID-19: OSHA and Workers' CompensationAs a business owner and employer, COVID-19 has likely caused major changes in the way you are operating your business. As we now look to reopening the economy and other segments of business, you should be prepared for when an employee falls ill or tests positive for COVID-19.

OSHA has provided Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. In addition, you should consider how Workers’ Compensation may apply and if there is any necessary OSHA reporting if you have an employee test positive.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits:

Historically, it has been difficult for an employee who is not working “on the front lines” (i.e. healthcare industry, emergency response, fire, law enforcement) to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits due to a communicable disease or an “ordinary disease of life” as it is often referred. An ill employee not working in the job descriptions listed above has a heightened burden of proof to show that the illness arose out of or was caused by conditions peculiar to the work, and that he/she had a greater risk of contracting the disease in a different manner than the general public. That being said, as more employees fall ill, there is sure to be many workers who will try to prove that case.

OSHA 300 Reporting:

OSHA has released a memorandum specifically addressing COVID-19 reporting. For occupations other than healthcare, emergency response (fire and law enforcement) and correctional institutions, COVID-19 must be reported on the OSHA 300 if the following is true:

  1. It is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the CDC
  2. The case is believed to be work-related (i.e. several cases developing among workers)
  3. The evidence being work-related was reasonably available to the employer (i.e. information given to the employer by employees, or information an employer learns regarding employees’ health and safety in the ordinary course of managing its business and employees).

Needless to say, if you have knowledge that an employee has been exposed to COVID-19, keep them away from the rest of your workforce, at home, and look to pay them their normal wages during that time.

For more information regarding COVID-19 OSHA requirements and employers’ responsibilities, visit the OSHA COVID-19 Information Page.

Jeffrey Sanders, TRIP is Client Advisor at Gulfshore Insurance. Jeff works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis, guidance, and insurance. Comments and questions are welcome at jsanders@gulfshoreinsurance.com

How To Protect Idle Buildings During COVID-19Several factors make vacant and idle facilities particularly vulnerable to loss. The most common property perils facing a vacant and idle facility include fire, vandalism, and inclement weather. While these perils are also present for operating facilities, they are magnified when a facility is vacant, operating on a skeleton crew, or idled.

During this period of uncertainty and reduced staffing due to COVID-19, it is especially important to prepare and mitigate the risks that are unique to vacant or idle facilities. The following strategies can help mitigate the risks with vacant and idle buildings: 

  • Ensure that fire protection systems are maintained and fully functional. Verify that sprinkler control valves are secured in the open position and that fire pumps are in the automatic setting. The typical service and maintenance activities for fire protection systems should be continued where possible.
  • Central station alarm companies and local fire departments should be notified when a facility is vacated or idled. The emergency response procedures and alarm protocols should be discussed and adjusted to address the lack of on-site personnel.
  • Fuel and power should be verified and maintained for any fire pumps and special extinguishing systems.
  • Housekeeping conditions should be addressed to eliminate or reduce any unnecessary combustibles in the building. Combustible storage outside the building, such as idle pallets, should be eliminated. Waste receptacles should be emptied and secured.
  • Operations involving flammable or combustible liquids should be discontinued, and flammable liquids should be removed or relocated to properly protected areas.
  • Steps should be taken to ensure that critical machinery is shut down and idled in a safe manner. Equipment manufacturers should be consulted for guidance on long-term shutdown of sensitive machines.
  • The perimeter building areas and exterior doors should be secured. Personnel with keys and key cards should be reviewed to ensure that only designated approved individuals have access to the building.
  • CCTV cameras should be verified and/or installed to cover sensitive areas. Remote monitoring should be established by designated facility personnel or central station alarm companies.
  • Building roof areas should be inspected to ensure unnecessary storage is removed from the roof. Building drains and scuppers should be cleaned to ensure effective drainage.

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate reach out to your Gulfshore Insurance Client Advisor who can offer assistance. We are here to help.

Gregory Havemeier, CIC, AAI, CIRMS is a Client Advisor and Partner at Gulfshore Insurance specializing in community and condominium associations. Gregory works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis and guidance. Comments and questions are welcome at ghavemeier@gulfshoreinsurance.com

Although the health and safety of our community is our number one priority during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are many concerns surrounding the degree and duration of disruptions to business activity and daily life. Mandatory and voluntary quarantines, social distancing to groups of 10 or less, restricted travel, and business closures are increasing measures being taken around the United States. These disruptions primarily affect businesses as they begin to lose inventory, revenue, and profit. From mom and pop shops, to tourism hot spots, concert venues, and restaurants the impact will be felt by all. Not to mention that this rippling affect will then be felt by suppliers, contractors, vendors, and service providers.

For insureds and insurers, once-hypothetical questions surrounding COVID-19 are quickly turning to familiar and regular insurance coverage questions such as the availability, scope and limitations of coverage, number of occurrences, exclusions, along with limits, sub-limits, deductibles and retentions. The claims that come out of COVID-19 will also provoke unique question and present their own set of challenges.

First-Party Business Interruption Coverage

First-party policies covering commercial property insurance provide coverage for business income loss by adding an endorsement to the insured’s property policy. This endorsement is designed to protect the insured for losses of business income it sustains as a result of direct loss, damage, or destruction to insured property by a covered peril. Although many such clauses are in use today, a typical business income insurance clause reads as follows:

“We will pay for the actual loss of business income you sustain due to the necessary suspension of your ‘operations’ during the period of ‘restoration.’ The suspension must be caused by the direct physical loss, damage, or destruction to property. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a covered cause of loss.”

Physical Loss or Damage Requirement

BI coverage is often part of the commercial property policy a business holds. This form adds coverage, in certain instances, for lost business income, contingent business interruption losses, and losses due to certain action taken by civil authorities.

To obtain coverage resulting from the current COVID-19 crisis, the existence of the virus would need to constitute a Covered Cause of Loss, which results in physical loss of or damage to the covered property. This is unlike a fire, hurricane, or flood, which are common causes of losses that cause visible damage to property. As mentioned earlier, businesses are closing, even though there may be no apparent damage at all. But, if the coronavirus is found within the confines of a workplace or business, this arguably constitutes damage to the property, albeit at a microscopic level that cannot be seen.

Duration of Lost Income Claim

Each policy is unique with different definitions and measurements relevant to the period of restoration. Complications can also arise where an insured opts not to resume business operations. However, business interruption typically includes coverage for repair or replacement of property impacted, in addition to loss of business income through the date the damaged property is repaired or replaced.

Calculation and Adjustment of Accepted Claims

Unfortunately, insureds bear the burden of substantiating claimed BI losses. When a claim is being reported, it’s important for the insured to detail and retain documentation for all business activity, direct or indirect cause of any disruptions, and mitigation efforts. It’s also important to note that insureds should be able to value and substantiate losses by referencing business history, benchmarks, and forecasts.

If you have BI coverage on your policy and find yourself needing to temporarily close your doors, we recommend you file the claim with your insurance company. If you are usure if you have this coverage, I am more than happy to review your policy. At Gulfshore Insurance, we specialize in insurance and risk management for the restaurant industry and can answer any questions you may have.

Olivia Ferencsik, is a Client Advisor at Gulfshore Insurance. Olivia works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis, guidance, and insurance. Comments and questions are welcome at oferencsik@gulfshoreinsurance.com

 

 

Summary of NFIP Program Changes Effective April 1, 2020The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) recently announced changes effective April 1, 2020. These changes include:

  • Premiums will increase an average of 9.9%.
  • The Reserve Fund Assessment will increase to 18% and the Severe Repetitive Loss premium will increase to 10%.
  • Primary Residence Determination – when the property address and mailing address match, no additional documentation will be required before issuing the policy as the primary residence.
  • Non-Residential Flood-proofing Credit – FEMA has updated the process and outlined documents needed prior to submission.
  • V-Zone Risk Rating Factor Form – FEMA is discontinuing use of this form.

Below is a breakdown of the premium increase by Flood Zone:

Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs) – Premiums will increase 12.5%

Pre-FIRM Subsidized Policies – SFHA Zones (A, A1-30, AE, AH, AO, AR, AR/A, AR/A1-30, AR/AE, AR/AH, AR/AO, V1-30, VE)

  • Primary Residences +7.5%
  • Non-Primary Residences +23.1%
  • Substantially Improved +23.8%
  • Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) Properties +24%
  • Non-Residential Business +24.2%

Other Subsidized Policies

  • A99 & AR Zones – Premiums will increase 4.2%

Post-FIRM V Zones

  • V Zones +5.6%

Post-FIRM A Zones

  • A1-30 AE +4.1%
  • AH, AHB, AO, AOB +2.7%
  • Unnumbered A Zones +5.1%

X Zones

  • Standard Rated X zones +3.8%
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There are an estimated 200,000 emergency room-treated injuries annually, sustained from the use of playground equipment. Studies from the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), have shown that 73% of playground related injuries annually come from public playgrounds. Churches and schools that maintain playground equipment for their child and students provide a valuable form or recreation, but also open themselves to liability from accidents.

After checking out the flashy infographic from the Children’s Safety Network, we should be asking two questions (1) What can we do to make playgrounds safer? and (2) Do we have coverage for an injury or lawsuit?

What do we do about it?

Avoid these problems:

  1. Age Appropriate Equipment – Playgrounds should be built for two age groups, 2-5 and 6-12. A young child, age 4, playing on equipment that was designed for a 10-year-old will find the steps and railings too far apart and will not possess the strength needed to use the equipment appropriately. The NPPS found that 64% of all public playgrounds did not have any safety signs posted to inform users of safety concerns and age appropriateness of equipment. Posting a sign may not prevent an accident or injury, but it may mitigate the damages awarded in a lawsuit.Here is an example of age appropriate equipment:
    Ages 2-5 Ages 6-12
    Areas to crawl Climbing pieces
    Low platforms Horizontal bars
    Ramps with handles Cooperative pieces like tire swings
    Low tables for sand and water Seesaws
    Flexible spring rockers Swings
    Short slides Open space to run
    Open area to manipulate materials Semi-enclosures for fantasy play
  2. Surface Material – Falls constitute the most common cause of injury at all playgrounds. These falls will come in various forms, including off, onto or into equipment. Regardless of the height of the fall, the surface material will have a lot to do with the severity of the injury. The chosen surface material should accommodate the potential fall hazard of the equipment.  Wood chips, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires and rubber mats cushion falls well, but they require different amounts of material based on the height of equipment.  For example, 6 in. of shredded/recycled rubber are required to protect falls of up to 10 ft, however 9-12 in. of wood chips are required to protect falls from the same height. For a full chart of appropriate surface materials and depths, download this excellent 8-page Risk Management summary on Playground Safety from Philadelphia Insurance.
  3. Maintenance – 23% of all playground injuries are equipment-related.  Injuries can come from the smallest wear and tear and from the most open and obvious hazard. If you own and use a playground, a regular, DAILY maintenance plan should be in place.  Not only should the equipment be inspected for things like splinters and sharp corners, but also water damage and paint peeling.The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a great 2-page checklist for playground maintenance, I recommend you download it for free. If you’re a glutton for punishment and want their whole 57-page Public Playground Safety Handbook, you can download that for free as well.

Do we have coverage for an injury or lawsuit?

General liability insurance policies do pay medical expenses, damages and provide defense for lawsuits from accidents on playgrounds. To ensure your general liability policy provides this protection, you’d have to make sure there are no exclusions for this type of equipment. Generally, if you have a playground on the premises, you will be paying a separate, line-item premium charge for each playground and there will be no exclusions. However, if the insurance company doesn’t know about or charge for playground exposure, they may include an exclusion on the policy. If there is an exclusion on the policy for playgrounds, there would be no coverage or defense in the event of an injury or lawsuit. It is critical that you work with an insurance advisor that has inspected the premises and has structured the General Liability policy to include playground exposure.

For additional information, check out the websites for the National Safety Council and SafeKids.org.

To view our complete risk management library of articles for churches and non-profits, click here.

John Keller, CRM ARM CIC AAI is Client Advisor & Risk Manager at Gulfshore Insurance specializing in non-profit and religious organizations. John works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis and guidance. Comments and questions are welcome at jkeller@gulfshoreinsurance.com