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Commercial Lines OSHA Changes Recordkeeping on COVID 19On Tuesday May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), issued a new guidance (again) on employers’ obligation to record COVID-19 cases in the workplace.  Specifically, effective on May 26, 2020, OSHA is rescinding its April 20, 2020 guidance to employers on their obligations recording coronavirus in the workplace.

OSHA was previously not requiring employers to record positive cases outside the healthcare/emergency responder fields without objective evidence that a positive COVID-19 case is work related and there was evidence of work-relatedness reasonably available to the employer.

Now, under the guidance effective on May 26, 2020, OSHA has determined that coronavirus is a recordable illness (as a respiratory illness on an OSHA Form 300) and employers must record it if:

  1. The employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19 (as set forth under CDC guidelines);
  2. The employee was exposed to COVID-19 in the work environment; and
  3. The case is recordable under general OSHA standards (results in any of the following: death, days away from work, restricted work, transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid or loss of consciousness).

Given the return to work in many states, OSHA decided to exercise its enforcement discretion and require recordkeeping of work related COVID-19 cases. OSHA reminds employers that merely recording an instance of COVID-19 does not mean that the employer violated any OSHA standard. OSHA will consider the following information in determining whether the employer properly made work-related determinations:

  1. The reasonableness of the investigation into work-relatedness.  OSHA cautions employers that they are not obligated to take extensive medical inquiries but should ask the employee who tested positive how the employee believes he contracted the virus, discuss with the employee activities outside of work that may lead to exposure and review the work environment for potential exposure (including knowledge of other employees at the worksite who have tested positive).
  2. The scope of the information that was available to the employer at the time it made the decision about work relatedness and whether the employer later learned additional information.
  3. Factors that will weigh in favor of work related and therefore recordable:
    1. Several cases develop among workers who work closely and there is not an alternative explanation;
    2. Shortly after “lengthy, close” exposure to customer/co-worker and there is not an alternative explanation;
    3. Job duties include close frequent contact with the public community with significant cases and there is not an alternative explanation.
  1. Factors that weigh against a finding of work related:
    1. Only one worker contracts COVID-19, and his/her job duties do not involve contact with the public (regardless of positive cases in the community);
    2. The worker has close contact family member/friend who is not a coworker who has COVID-19 during the period in which the worker was likely infected.

 

OSHA also will give weight to any other evidence of causation based on the individual employee, medical advice, public health authorities and/or the employee’s anecdotal information.

If after the reasonable and good faith inquiry, the employer cannot determine that exposure within the work environment played a causal role in the employee’s infection, then the employer does not need to record the COVID-19 illness. To demonstrate good faith, employers should ensure they have documented their considerations and the information relied upon in making their determinations of work-relatedness.

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

Post-coronavirus Office Checklist

As organizations create return-to-work plans, many employers are reviewing best practices for their post-coronavirus office. By updating office layouts, encouraging new behaviors and expanding remote work options, employers can help prevent the spread of diseases and protect the health and safety of employees. Use this checklist as a guide when evaluating changes to your office.

Click here to download the checklist

This is a constantly evolving area, with new guidance being issued nearly every day. Gulfshore Insurance will continue to monitor the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate.

 

Commercial Lines Surge in LitigationA wave of increased litigation will likely emerge as workers who have been laid off see their savings run low and start to look for alternative sources of income. The key to addressing this phase will be how organizations conduct layoffs. Companies that initiate layoffs with little forethought and guidance may see a rise in workers compensation claims and experience numerous other unintended consequences. Companies that develop thoughtful reduction-in-force strategies are likely to see fewer workers compensation claims and lower overall expenses.

To avoid this, consider making settlements on open cases despite the lack of hearings or IMEs. Parties may need cash. Negotiations may resolve informally. Some carriers have seen claims moving to settlement early, sometimes at or below reserve estimates. Therefore, the current economic climate may be creating a prime opportunity to resolve stubborn cases.

Additional Disruptions:
The rise of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic recession are crashing at once and creating profound shifts in the workers’ compensation system. Together these waves will drive changes to the workers compensation system for years to come, reshuffle the insurance industry, and could potentially alter health care in the US.

A decrease in traditional workers’ compensation claims, due to fewer workers and fewer work hours will be at least somewhat offset by an increase in new types of claims, including:

  • COVID-19 claims.
  • Post-termination claims. As waves of workers get furloughed, we can expect a wave of new claims, especially from deeply affected industries such as hospitality and retail. This is driven, in part, by situations where an employee has an injury and may not have filed a claim in a healthy economy but decides to do so in a downturn after seeing his or her bank account run low.
  • Work-at-home claims. These may be related to mental stress, sleep deprivation and other conditions related to extended social distancing. Claims for repetitive strain injuries may also increase.

The “onslaught of pent up demand” for medical treatment among injured workers whose care has been delayed will put stress on the system. Some organizations are expanding care networks and establishing new channels of care. A rise in fraud can be expected in the next few months among attorneys and providers known to engage in workers’ compensation fraud. We should see more claims that are challenging to define as legitimate or fraudulent because they occurred in a distributed work environment where there are no witnesses to corroborate the injury.

The following strategies can help organizations prepare for short- and long-term challenges:

  • Prepare teams to handle an influx of COVID-19 claims. Also, checking and adjusting reserving estimates should be done more frequently.
  • Onboard new tools to increase productivity. New platforms, for example, should be evaluated to help companies prepare for a resurgence when the economy recovers.
  • Augment in-house analytics with artificial intelligence. Smart carriers and TPAs are looking for partners that can augment their in-house expertise with AI-as-a-service. This new approach enables them to unlock unstructured insights buried in scans, images, handwritten notes, combine them with structured data from a cross-industry data lake, and generate predictions based on a range of AI techniques. The result is more accurate forecasts overall, and the ability to generate predictions on unique emerging cases, such as COVID-19.
  • Expand provider networks. Along with preparing for recovery, incorporating new specialists is also advised; such as pulmonologists and immunologists who can treat conditions such as COVID-19.
  • Optimize legal panels.
  • Consider settling potentially expensive claims.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to help.

Dave Wissel is a Client Advisor and Partner at Gulfshore Insurance who specializes in construction, landscaping, and the oil and petroleum industries. Comments and questions are welcome at dwissel@gulfshoreinsurance.com

Please note: The content of this article was taken from workerscompensation.com

Commercial Lines Water Transmission and COVID 19The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued clarification and guidance on COVID-19 and treated recreational water venues. The advice and answers provided are useful to swimmers, swim programs and swimming venues.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

While there is ongoing community spread of the virus, it is important for individuals, as well as operators of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds (for example, at hotels or apartment complexes or owned by communities) to take steps
to ensure health and safety:

  • Everyone should follow state, local, territorial, or tribal guidance that might determine when and how public pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds may operate and might include CDC considerations.
  • In addition to ensuring water quality and safety, operators of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should follow guidance on cleaning and disinfecting community facilities.

 

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water?
The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through sewerage systems?
CDC is reviewing all data on COVID-19 transmission as information becomes available. At this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. Although transmission of COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred. This guidance will be updated as necessary as new evidence is assessed.

SARS, a similar coronavirus, has been detected in untreated sewage for up to 2 to 14 days. In the 2003 SARS outbreak, there was documented transmission associated with sewage aerosols. Data suggest that standard municipal wastewater system chlorination practices may be sufficient to inactivate coronavirus, as long as utilities monitor free available chlorine during treatment to ensure it has not been depleted.

Wastewater and sewage workers should use standard practices, practice basic hygiene precautions, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as prescribed for current work tasks.

For further information on water transmission and COVID-19, please visit the CDC website.

John Caballero, CIC, CRM is a Client Advisor and Partner at Gulfshore Insurance who specializes in managing risk for community associations. Comments and questions are welcome at jcaballero@gulfshoreinsurance.com

Phase 2 InfographicOn June 3, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-139 announcing Phase 2 of Florida’s reopening plan following COVID-19: Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.

The plan allows for further reopening of the state beginning Friday, June 5. All counties with the exception of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties may move into Phase 2.

Phase 2 allows for restaurants to serve at the bar with social distancing. Bars can open at a 50% capacity indoors with recommended social distancing. There will be no limit on capacity for outdoor seating as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. Entertainment business including movie theaters and bowling alleys can also operate at a 50% capacity.

Executive Order 20-139 is available here.

Click here to download the infographic

This a constantly evolving area, with new guidance being issued nearly every day. Gulfshore Insurance will continue to monitor the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate.