Is Your Employee’s COVID-19 Case Work-Related?

Is Your Employee’s COVID-19 Case Work-Related?

Is Your Employee’s COVID-19 Case Work-Related?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created massive change and concern for employers and employees across the world. Even as businesses reopen and employees return to their new normal, the risk of becoming exposed to and ill with COVID-19 is still present. When an employee reports they have COVID-19, employers are faced with the difficult task of determining whether the employee’s illness is work-related. This HR Insights piece will provide an overview of how employers can determine when a COVID-19 case is work-related, OSHA requirements for reporting illness and best practices for responding to an employee’s positive COVID-19 test. As is the case with all inherently legal issues, employers are strongly recommended to seek the guidance of legal counsel when faced with any of the claims discussed herein. This article should not be considered legal advice.

OSHA Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act) requires employers to report and record work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA has indicated that COVID-19 infections are recordable injuries if they are work-related and they meet the Act’s recording criteria. Recording requirements apply only to employers with more than 10 employees who are not in an exempt, low-risk industry.

In addition, employers must report incidents that result in an employee’s fatality within eight hours. Incidents that result in inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.

COVID-19 Case Work-Related

OSHA Guidance on Work-relatedness

An injury or illness is work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting injury or illness. Work-relatedness is presumed for events or exposures in the work environment.

Case-by-Case Evaluation

Unfortunately, because the coronavirus is so widespread, determining whether an employee’s illness is work-related can be difficult and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Employers can conduct the following activities when an employee reports a positive COVID-19 diagnosis:

  • Ask how the employee believes they were exposed to the coronavirus.
  • Ask employees about their work-related activities.
  • Ask employees about their out-of-work activities, while being sure to respect their privacy.
  • Conduct a review of the employee’s work environment to identify potential COVID-19 exposure.
  • Review whether the employee’s co-workers have reported a COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms.

After conducting a review, employers will hopefully have enough information to determine whether a COVID-19 case is work-related. Employers should consider that certain situations, including the following, make it more likely for a COVID-19 case to be work-related:

  • The employee is frequently and regularly exposed to the public.
  • There are other employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The employee works closely or has regular contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Employers should consult legal counsel when evaluating whether an employee’s COVID-19 case is work-related to ensure compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws.

COVID-19 Case Work-Related

Recording a Work-related COVID-19 Case

OSHA has clarified that COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are met:

OSHA’s definition of a recordable illness includes “both acute and chronic illnesses, such as, but not limited to, a skin disease, respiratory disorder or poisoning.” This definition is limited to abnormal conditions or disorders that exclude the common cold and the seasonal flu. This can make it difficult when employees show up to work with coronavirus-like symptoms, such as a high fever or coughing. For this reason, employers may hold off until they have a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis before starting a recordability analysis. A confirmed case of COVID-19 means an individual with at least one respiratory specimen that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Reporting a Work-related COVID-19 Case

COVID-19 cases must be reported if they are work-related and result in a fatality (within eight hours), inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye (within 24 hours). The reporting periods begin as soon as the employer learns about the work-related incident, even if there is a delay between the time the incident takes place and the time the incident is reported to the employer.

If the OSHA area office is closed, employers are expected to report these incidents by phone at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or the reporting application located on OSHA’s public website at www.osha.gov.

Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers with more than 10 employees and whose establishments are not classified as a partially exempt industry must prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses, using OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301.

  • Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses): Use to classify work-related injuries and illnesses and to note the extent and severity of each case. When an incident occurs, employers must use Form 300 to record specific details about what happened and how it happened.
  • Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses): Shows the total number of work-related injuries and illnesses for the year in each category. At the end of the year, employers must post the Form 300A in a visible location so that employees are aware of the injuries and illnesses occurring in their workplace. Employers must keep a log for each establishment or site. When an employer has more than one establishment, a separate log and summary must be kept at each physical location that is expected to be in operation for one year or longer.
  • Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report): Must be filled out within seven calendar days after an employer receives information that a recordable work-related injury or illness occurred. This report includes information about the employee and the treating physician, and detailed information about the case. Employers must keep this report on file for five years following the year it pertains to.

The information collected in these records enables OSHA to determine DART rates for employers and industries. DART stands for “days away, restricted and transferred” and is a safety metric that helps determine how many workplace injuries and illnesses caused employees to miss work, perform restricted work or be transferred to another job within a calendar year. OSHA uses data from a three-year sampling period to update the list of partially exempt industries. Industries with a DART rate lower than 75% of the average DART for the sampling period are allowed a partial exemption from recording requirements.

Following these reporting requirements is essential to protecting your organization from potential litigation and OSHA violations. These recordkeeping violations can quickly add up, with first-time violations ranging between $1,000 to $5,000 and willful violations carrying a penalty of $134,937 per violation.

Best Practices for Responding to a COVID-19 Test

When an employee notifies you that he or she is sick with COVID-19, you should respond calmly and empathetically. In these uncertain times, it can be easy to overreact, but you need to ensure that the infected employee is treated with compassion. Reassure the employee that their identity will remain confidential, and be sure to help them coordinate taking leave or paid time off until they’ve recovered.

Without disclosing the identity of the infected employee, directly notify any co-workers or customers with whom the ill employee had been in contact. Be sure to remain calm and let them know that someone they have been in contact with or have been in their physical work area has tested positive for COVID-19. Recommend that they should self-quarantine for the next 14 days and monitor themselves for the symptoms of COVID-19. If feasible, allow eligible employees to work from home during this time.

Be sure to notify the rest of the company by email or letter that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. Remember to keep the employee’s identity protected and be transparent about your response. The communication should include what steps your company will be taking to protect the health of other employees. If you plan on having employees work from home for the next 14 days or closing the office, this information should be disclosed in the communication.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 can remain on hard surfaces for up to 12 hours, creating a potential risk of transmission. Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to consider closing the office for a few days so that it can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. All surfaces that the infected employee may have touched should be disinfected, as well as other high-touch surfaces, which include countertops, cabinets, doorknobs, handles and chairs.

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic is widespread across the country, and it’s likely that employers may be faced with the difficult situation of responding to an employee’s positive diagnosis and determining whether their illness is work-related. Before making any decisions, employers should consult legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable laws. For additional resources on the COVID-19 pandemic, contact GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. today.

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

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Portal Opens for Second Round of PPP Loans

Portal Opens for Second Round of PPP Loans

Portal Opens for Second Round of PPP Loans

The U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have announced that beginning Monday, Jan. 11, applications will be accepted for the second round of PPP loans in the SBA’s Payment Protection Program (PPP). This second round includes $284 billion in funding that was allocated for the PPP in the stimulus bill passed on Dec. 27, 2020. This round of funding will run through March 31, 2021.

The second round of PPP loans provides eligibility to new borrowers and certain existing PPP borrowers. As eligibility opens up, small businesses and lenders should prepare to adhere to the new requirements detailed below. 

Second Round of PPP Loans

Second Round of PPP Loans Application Schedule

Monday, Jan. 11, marks the opening of the portal. Initially, the portal will only be open to borrowers applying for their first PPP loan (known as “First Draw PPP Loans”) through “community financial institutions.” These “community financial institutions” are lenders that serve minority, underserved, veteran and women-owned businesses.

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, borrowers applying for a second PPP Loan (known as “Second Draw PPP Loans”) also become eligible. Again, the SBA will only accept applications from lenders designated a “community financial institution.”

The PPP will open to all participating lenders “shortly thereafter,” according to the announcement. The SBA has yet to announce a specific date.

Second Round of PPP Loans

Information About the Second Round of PPP Loans

For the most part, the rules for this round are very similar to the initial round of PPP loans. However, there are updates to the first round of funding. According to the Treasury, key PPP updates include:

  • PPP borrowers can set their PPP loan’s covered period to be any length between eight and 24 weeks to best meet their business needs;
  • PPP loans will cover additional expenses, including operations expenditures, property damage costs, supplier costs and worker protection expenditures;
  • The program’s eligibility is expanded to include 501(c)(6)s, housing cooperatives and direct marketing organizations, among other types of organizations;
  • The PPP provides greater flexibility for seasonal employees;
  • Certain existing PPP borrowers can request to modify their First Draw PPP Loan amount; and
  • Certain existing PPP borrowers are now eligible to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

A borrower is generally eligible for a Second Draw PPP Loan if the borrower:

  • Previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and will or has used the full amount only for authorized uses;
  • Has no more than 300 employees; and
  • Can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

For more specifics about the second round of PPP funding, the SBA has provided additional details.

What’s Next?

Borrowers should review the criteria for this second round of PPP loans. Borrowers considering applying should prepare and have on hand all relevant documentation. Lastly, borrowers should direct any questions regarding PPP loans to their lender.

We will continue to monitor any additional developments regarding the PPP and deliver updates as necessary. For more information about the PPP, contact GDI Insurance Agency, Inc.

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Signs You May Need to Replace Your Cloth Face Mask

Signs You May Need to Replace Your Cloth Face Mask

Signs You May Need to Replace Your Cloth Face Mask

Wearing a cloth face mask or covering when you’re out in public is essential for preventing the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How do you know when it’s time to replace your cloth face mask?

While many Americans are following CDC, state and local guidance for wearing cloth face masks when they’re out in public, some may be wondering whether the masks they wear are still as effective. In addition, many may be forgetting to wash their mask after each use.

Knowing When It’s Time to Replace Your Cloth Face Mask or Covering

According to Christopher Sulmonte, the project administrator for the Biocontainment Unit at John Hopkins Medical, there’s not an exact timeline for how long you can use a cloth face mask before it needs to be replaced. The original quality of the mask and the harshness of your washing machine play large roles in how quickly your mask may deteriorate.

To see if your mask needs to be replaced, you can:

  • Hold your mask up to a light to check for visible fading or spots that you can see through.
  • Inspect your mask for any holes.
  • Check the fit of your mask to make sure it still fits snugly over your nose and mouth.

If your mask has visible fading, holes or see-through spots, or fits loosely, it’s time to replace your mask.

In addition, if you live in an area with colder weather, you can go outside with your mask on to see how far your breath travels through your mask. If your breath travels more than an inch through your mask, it’s time to replace your mask.

Tips for Cleaning Your Cloth Face Mask or Covering

According to the CDC, you should wash your cloth face mask or covering after each wear. As such, it’s recommended that you have more than one mask to have a safe mask to wear each day.

The CDC explains there are two methods for washing your masks:

  • Using a washing machine—You can include your mask(s) with your regular laundry and detergent.
  • Washing by hand—You can wash your mask(s) by hand, too. To do so, put your mask(s) in a bowl or bin. Use tap water, and detergent or soap to wash the mask, rinsing thoroughly to remove detergent or soap.

The CDC also states that you can use your dryer or air dry your mask(s). However, be sure to check the fabric tags of your mask(s) before using the dryer. In some cases, to preserve the fit and fabric of your masks, you may need to air dry them.

Remember, wearing a mask can help you protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. 

Replace Your Cloth Face Mask

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As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

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Supporting Employees During a Potentially Lonely Holiday Season

Supporting Employees During a Potentially Lonely Holiday Season

Supporting Employees During a Potentially Lonely Holiday Season

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life—including how employees celebrate for the holidays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged all Americans to avoid gathering and traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, and these sentiments will likely apply to future holiday celebrations as well. This may include—but is not limited to—Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve, making this a potentially lonely holiday season.

Although following the CDC’s advice is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, canceling trips and holiday plans can make for a lonely holiday season for many employees. This article discusses ways to support employees during this unprecedented holiday season.

lonely holiday season

Employee Mental Health and Lonely Holiday Season

The holiday season is traditionally a stressful one for employees in general, but employees will likely be more stressed out this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and having to cancel holiday plans.

After almost a full year of disruption and uncertainty, many employees have experienced stress and disappointment, which could be negatively affecting their overall health. A report from Limeade, an employee experience software company, found that:

  • Forty-nine percent of employees have less energy to participate in non-work-related activities.
  • Forty-two percent of employees have trouble sleeping.
  • Forty-two percent of employees are less interested in socializing with friends.

In addition, about one-third of employees reported consuming more alcohol or using other substances more than usual to cope with their stress. These unhealthy coping mechanisms could affect employees’ personal and professional lives, which makes it all the more important to support them.

An employer’s role is to support employees—including their mental health and well-being. That support is even more important during a global pandemic and an unprecedented holiday season, as employees may be struggling to cope with the uncertainty.

lonely holiday season

Best Practices for Supporting Employees During a Lonely Holiday Season

How you choose to support employees during this stressful and potentially lonely holiday season depends upon your organization’s values, culture and budget. However, there are a handful of low- to no-cost ways you can provide support. This includes the following best practices:

  • Connect with employees. Intentionally check in with direct reports on a regular basis and simply ask, “Are you OK?” The best way to help employees is to start by asking how they are doing. Employees may choose not to engage, and that’s fine too, but it’s important to approach that conversation. Additionally, consider asking what kind of support would be helpful to your employees, and reinforce that the door is open if and when they’d like to talk.
  • Model healthy behaviors. To be a good example to other employees, prioritize self-care and set boundaries. Be vocal and open about what you’re doing to take care of yourself and avoid burnout.
  • Be vulnerable. To help decrease the stigma of mental health challenges, be transparent about personal struggles or experiences. Doing so can help other employees feel comfortable talking about how they’re truly doing during the pandemic and this holiday season.
  • Host a virtual holiday event. If your budget and workload allow, consider hosting a virtual holiday event. By offering a safe way to celebrate the holidays, you may help employees combat feelings of loneliness or disappointment if they have to cancel their own personal holiday plans. Some simple virtual holiday celebration ideas include:
  • Virtual mixers designed for multiple conversations to take place at once, rather than one big video conference
    • Ugly sweater contests
    • Holiday karaoke events
    • Gingerbread house building and decorating activities
    • Wine and cheese parties
    • Online escape rooms
    • Trivia contests
    • Virtual gift exchanges
  • Communicate regularly. Help remove unnecessary stress by setting expectations about workloads and clarifying any modified work hours and norms. Strive for weekly communications from the organization to inform employees about company news and updated policies related to the pandemic.
  • Highlight available resources. Last but not least, it’s important to make employees aware of available mental health resources and encourage them to use such offerings. The most commonly desired workplace features are an open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go or who to ask for support, and training to help managers have productive behavioral health conversations.

Remember, everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important to remain sensitive to the fact that some employees may be carrying on as usual during these times, while others may be struggling. Avoid calling out specific employees and make sure to keep any conversations about an employee’s mental health or stressors confidential.

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt employees’ lives across the country, creating additional stress, worry and disappointment for many. Supporting employees during difficult times such as these has never been more important.

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate! We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

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COVID-19 Guidance on Ventilation in the Workplace

COVID-19 Guidance on Ventilation in the Workplace

COVID-19 Guidance on Ventilation in the Workplace

OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers and workplaces during these
unprecedented times. The agency will be issuing a series of alerts designed to keep workers safe.
Ensuring adequate ventilation in the workplace can help to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Employers should work with a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional to consider steps to optimize building ventilation. An HVAC professional can ensure that the ventilation system is operating as intended.

ventilation in the workplace

The following tips can help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus:

  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure all HVAC systems and ventilation in the workplace are fully functional, especially those shut down or operating at reduced capacity during the pandemic.
  • Remove or redirect personal fans to prevent blowing air from one worker to another.
  • Use HVAC system filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher,
    where feasible.
  • Increase the HVAC system’s outdoor air intake. Open windows or other sources of fresh air where possible.
    Be sure exhaust air is not pulled back into the building from HVAC air intakes or open windows.
  • Consider using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to increase clean air,
    especially in higher-risk areas.
  • When changing filters, wear appropriate personal protective equipment. ASHRAE recommends N95
    respirators, eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields), and disposable gloves.
  • Make sure exhaust fans in restrooms are fully functional, operating at maximum capacity, and are set to
    remain on.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov/coronavirus or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

GDI Insurance Agency, inc.

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

Contact us today 1-209-634-2929 for your comprehensive business insurance quote!

California Governor Issues Regional Stay-at-Home Order

California Governor Issues Regional Stay-at-Home Order

California Governor Issues Regional Stay-at-Home Order

On Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a limited regional stay-at-home order for certain areas in California where COVID-19 cases are straining hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs). This announcement comes one day after California reported approximately 8,208 COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Under this order, California will be split into five regions—Southern California, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley, Greater Sacramento and the Bay Area. A three-week stay-at-home order will be triggered in a region if the remaining ICU capacity within that region falls below 15%.

On Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, the California Department of Public Health said that a stay-at-home order was triggered in the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions. The orders took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, and will last for at least three weeks. At this time, stay-at-home orders have not been triggered in the other three regions.

Regional Stay-At-Home Order

What businesses will be required to close?

If a three-week stay-at-home order is triggered, bars, wineries, hair salons, barbershops and personal services (e.g., nail salons and tattoo parlors) would be required to temporarily close. Restaurants would not be allowed to be open for dining in, but would be allowed to offer takeout and delivery. Additionally, retail stores would be allowed to operate at a 20% capacity.

What businesses will be allowed to remain open?

Critical infrastructure and schools that meet the state’s health requirements will be allowed to remain open during a three-week stay-at-home order.

“The bottom line is if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed. If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see a death rate climb, more lives lost.”

– Gov. Newsom

What activities are permitted during a stay-at-home order?

Under a stay-at-home order, Californians are permitted to go outside to exercise or get some fresh air, as long as social distancing measures can be observed. However, nonessential trips to the store should be avoided and gatherings with those who do not live in their household are prohibited.

What’s next?

California residents should monitor the news for the latest developments within their region and continue to follow the guidelines imposed by their county, which may include observing a 10 p.m. curfew. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary.

California’s Leader in Insurance and Risk Management

As one of the fastest-growing agencies in California, GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. is able to provide its clients with the latest and greatest of what the insurance industry has to offer and much, much more. The GDI team has developed an “insurance cost reduction” quoting plan, that provides you with the best coverage at the best rate!

We are headquartered in Turlock, CA, with locations across the heart of California’s Central Valley, Northern California and beyond to provide a local feel to the solutions and services we provide our clients. We pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations in every interaction to make sure that our client’s know how much we value and appreciate their business.

Contact us today 1-209-634-2929 for your comprehensive insurance quote!