Health Care Facility and Air Quality

Health Care Facility and Air Quality

Health Care Facility and Air Quality

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air has higher levels of pollutants than outdoor air, and consequently can pose environmentally related health problems. Health care facilities must take particular care of indoor air quality; many of those in the hospital are especially susceptible to air quality problems, such as immunosuppressed, elderly or chemotherapy patients, and those being treated in bone marrow, neonatal or burn units. Your Health Care Facility needs to take particular notice of air quality. Hospitals also face unique risks regarding air quality:

  • The risk of spread of infectious diseases and other biological hazards
  • Chemical hazards
  • Ventilation requirements
Health Care Facility and Air Quality

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

When a substantial number of a facility’s occupants experience health and comfort troubles related to working indoors, the outbreak is referred to as sick building syndrome. The reported symptoms do not follow the patterns of any particular illnesses, are often difficult to trace to any specific source and relief from the symptoms tends to occur when leaving the facility. Employees may experience headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation, dry or itchy skin, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and loss of concentration.

Building-Related Illnesses (BRI)

A facility is characterized with BRI when a relatively small number of occupants experience health problems. The symptoms associated with BRIs are similar to those of SBS and are often accompanied by physical signs identified by a physician or laboratory test. Sufferers of BRI may also experience upper respiratory irritation, skin irritations, chills, fever, cough, chest tightness, congestion, sneezing, runny nose, muscle aches and pneumonia. These symptoms may be caused by the following conditions brought on my indoor air pollutants: asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, multiple chemical sensitivity and Legionnaires’ disease.

Contributing Factors

There are numerous concerns regarding health care facility air quality. The following are some that can be controlled by the facility.

Health Care Facility and Air Quality

Use of Mercury

Mercury is a bioaccumulative, persistent, toxic substance that threatens the health of humans. It is found in many health care settings, including pathology labs, patient areas, and clinical procedure and medicines. It is found in blood pressure monitors, dental amalgam, thermometers or thermostats, esophageal dilators, Cantor tubes and Miller Abott tubes, and histology fixatives and stains.

Mercury evaporates, and can be inhaled. Even a few drops of metallic mercury, when released into an enclosed space, can raise air concentrations of mercury to levels that are harmful to health. If mercury is not handled and disposed of properly, mercury can pose a serious health threat to staff and patients. There are mercury-free alternatives for almost all of these items. Your efforts can make a big difference.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is used in common plastic products like IV bags, surgical tubing and other medical supplies. If products containing PVC are incinerated on site, they produce a potent carcinogen called dioxin, which interferes with normal reproduction and development even at low doses.

Latex

Latex protein molecules can bind with cornstarch powder on the outside and inside of gloves and be inhaled by staff and patients in a large area. Many health care workers and patients have a latex allergy, and inhaling the substance puts them at risk of an allergic reaction, which can range from skin irritations to breathing problems.

Health Care Facility and Ventilation Systems

Biological contaminants including bacteria, mold and viruses can breed in stagnant water that can accumulate in ducts, humidifiers and drain pans of ventilation systems, increasing the risk of infection in all areas of the facility.

Proper maintenance of these systems and use of HEPA filters is fundamental to preventing the spread of disease. Without maintenance, filters become overloaded, allowing irritants and microbes to circulate in the air. A thorough inspection of your ventilation system should verify the following.

  • Outdoor air supply dampers are opened as they were originally designed and remain unobstructed.
  • Fan belts are properly operating, in good condition and replaced when necessary.
  • Equipment parts are lubricated.
  • Motors are properly functioning and in good operating condition.
  • Diffusers are open and unobstructed for adequate air mixing.
  • The system is properly balanced.
  • Filters are properly installed and replaced at specific intervals.
  • Damaged components are replaced or repaired.
  • Condensate pans are properly drained and are in good condition.
  • Carbon dioxide levels are under 1000 ppm, which is the maximum recommended level by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.

Ways to Reduce Your Health Care Facility Risk

  • Reduce or eliminate the presence of dangerous chemicals in your facility by purchasing products that do not contain them or handling them in the proper manner.
  • Use mercury-free instruments and supplies
  • Avoid PVC and do not incinerate PVC-containing materials
  • Use latex-free or powder-free gloves
  • Focus on your ventilation systems. Ensure that the fresh air supply and air pressure are sufficient for each part of the facility. Make proper maintenance of these systems a priority.
  • Develop a training and communication program aimed at increasing the general awareness of the impacts of these irritants, and a protocol for use and disposal.
  • Avoid overcrowding staff and patients in one area, and make sure the amount of fresh air in the room is appropriate for the average number of occupants.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces regularly where irritants and moisture can collect.

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 GDI Insurance Agency, Inc. for more information about risk management and loss prevention strategies for health care facilities, including a complete Dental Labs Insurance program.

Frequency of Vehicle Thefts Increased in 2020

Frequency of Vehicle Thefts Increased in 2020

Frequency of Vehicle Thefts Increased in 2020

Everyone is susceptible to vehicle theft, whether they live in a metropolitan area, the neighboring suburbs or the rural countryside. In fact, after a downward trend in the frequency of vehicle thefts, there was a dramatic increase in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

According to an NICB study, there were 873,080 vehicle thefts in 2020, a 9.2% increase over 2019. The NICB said the pandemic, economic downturn, loss of juvenile outreach programs, and public safety budgetary and resource limitations are likely contributing factors to this increase.

Thieves are opportunity seekers, often seeking vehicles that are consistently parked in the same location or that are unsecured. While not everyone will have their vehicle stolen, an increase in vehicle crimes can increase insurance rates. The NICB reported that about one-fourth of a typical comprehensive auto insurance premium pays for auto theft claims.

Anti-theft Safeguards to Follow

Adding multiple layers of protection can help safeguard your vehicle against theft. The NICB recommends the following:

  • Basic protections—Always remove keys from the ignition, lock doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas. Don’t leave your car unlocked and unattended with the engine running. Never store spare keys inside your vehicle. Safely hide valuables from plain sight.
  • Warning devices—Aftermarket alarms are available for all makes and models of cars.
    A qualified mechanic can install a visible and audible alarm system in your vehicle. Visual devices include column collars, steering wheel locks and brake locks.
  • Immobilizing devices—Prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring your vehicle with an immobilizing device. Many options are available, including smart keys; fuse cut-offs, kill switches; starter, ignition and fuel pump disablers; and wireless ignition authentication. To determine the best device for your vehicle, seek the advice of a qualified mechanic.
  • Tracking devices—Tracking devices are very effective in recovering stolen vehicles. A qualified mechanic can install a tracking system in your vehicle that emits a signal to the police or a monitoring service if it is stolen. Some systems combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of your vehicle. If a thief moves your vehicle, the system alerts you and you can track it on your computer.

Thieves can steal any vehicle, but, by adding layers of protection, you can make your vehicle a more difficult target for criminals.

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 auto insurance quote!

OSHA Mitigation and Prevention Guidance for COVID-19

OSHA Mitigation and Prevention Guidance for COVID-19

OSHA Mitigation and Prevention Guidance for COVID-19

On Jan. 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance applies to employers and employees in settings outside of the health care industry, and is meant to help them determine appropriate COVID-19 control measures for the workplace. Employers can use this OSHA guidance to plan and evaluate their COVID-19 prevention and mitigation procedures. With this guidance, OSHA strongly recommends that employers implement COVID-19 prevention programs. According to OSHA, the most effective programs engage employees and their union or representatives in the development and planning stages.

COVID-19 Prevention Program

OSHA asserts that the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work is for employers to implement a workplace prevention program. For this reason, OSHA recommends that employers appoint a workplace coordinator to manage the employer’s COVID-19 response efforts. OSHA’s guidance outlines the following key elements for an effective COVID-19 prevention program and should contain the requirements below.

Hazard Assessments

Employers should complete thorough hazard assessments to identify potential COVID-19 workplace hazards. Employee participation in these assessments will increase the efficiency of this process because employees are the most familiar with the conditions they face. Once hazards are identified, employers should follow the principles of the hierarchy of controls to limit the spread of COVID-19 and implement other safety measures. Acceptable control measures include eliminating the hazard, engineering controls, workplace administrative policies and using personal protective equipment (PPE).  Key examples include:

  • Separating and sending home infected or suspected infected employees from the workplace
  • Practicing physical distancing in all communal work areas
  • Installing barriers in areas where physical distancing is not applicable
  • Requiring the use of face coverings
  • Improving ventilation, hygiene and sanitation

Policies and Practices

OSHA guidance states that employers must ensure that their employees understand their right to a safe and healthy work environment. Employers should consider the following issues as they develop and implement workplace policies, practices and procedures:

  • Protecting employees at higher risk: Employers should implement protections for employees who are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. For example, employees with disabilities may be legally entitled to “reasonable accommodations” that protect them from the risk of contracting COVID-19. In addition, employers should consider reasonable job modifications for employees identified as high-risk, including remote work or working in a less densely occupied, better-ventilated facility.
  • Communicating effectively with employees: Efficient employer-employee communication systems should be able to track which employees have been informed (and when they were informed) of COVID-19 facts and employer policies, procedures and practices. Employer communications to employees should address:
    • Basic COVID-19 facts, including how it is spread and the importance of social distancing, use of face coverings and hand hygiene;
    • A description of workplace policies and procedures implemented to protect employees from COVID-19 hazards; and
    • The procedure employees must follow and the contact information for the person to address questions or concerns about workplace safety and health issues.

Facilitating employee reporting: Employees should be able to report to their employer, without fear of retaliation, any COVID-19 symptoms, possible exposures or hazards in the workplace. Employers must communicate all policies and procedures implemented for responding to sick and exposed employees in the workplace to employees in a language all employees understand. A best practice is to create and test two-way communication

  • systems that employees can use to self-report if they are sick or have been exposed and that employers can use to notify employees of exposures and closures.
  • Training managers and supervisors: Supervisors must be familiar with workplace flexibilities and other human resource policies and procedures.
Medical Office Insurance

Isolation or Separation

Employers must instruct employees who have a confirmed case of COVID-19 to stay home, and isolate or quarantine. Similarly, employers should immediately separate employees who appear to have symptoms upon arrival to work or who develop symptoms during their work shift, from other employees, customers and visitors. Employers should also consider sending these employees home and encourage them to seek medical attention. 

Employees’ isolation should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) isolation and return-to-work guidelines. Please note that some employees may need to stay home and isolate longer than 10 days as recommended by their health care providers.

To the extent possible, employers should make telework or the ability to work in an area isolated from others, available to these employees. If telework or separation options are not possible, employers should allow these employees to use paid sick leave, if available, or consider implementing paid leave policies to reduce the drive for sick employees to report to work, thus lowering the risk of infection for everyone at the workplace. To assist with this decision, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides certain employers 100% reimbursement through tax credits if they provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 through March 31, 2021.

Sanitation

An area may only be used again once it has been appropriately disinfected. Employers should not allow employees to share objects or tools. However, if sharing is unavoidable, employers should make sure shared equipment, objects and surfaces are cleaned and disinfected between uses. Employers should provide disposable disinfecting supplies so that employees can clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces before each use.

Employers should follow the CDC’s cleaning and disinfection recommendations if someone has been in the facility and is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. When cleaning and disinfecting the workplace, employers should consider opening outside doors and windows, as well as blocking off and sanitizing all potentially infected and immediate work areas and equipment. Additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary if seven or more days have passed since an infected person visited or used the facility. Employees without close contact with a potentially infected person can return to the area immediately after disinfection.

Screening and Testing

Employers should follow state or local guidance and priorities for screening and vital testing at the workplace. Testing in the workplace may be arranged through a company’s occupational health provider or in consultation with the local or state health department.

Employers must inform employees of employer testing requirements and the availability of testing options (if any). The CDC has published strategies for consideration when incorporating viral COVID-19 testing into workplace preparedness, response and control plans.

Please note that screening and performing health checks is not a replacement for other protective measures, such as requiring face coverings and enforcing physical distancing. Asymptomatic individuals or individuals with mild non-specific symptoms may not realize they are infected, and some infections may not be detected during screenings.

Physical Distancing

Employers must implement physical distancing measures in all communal work areas. Physical distancing prevents workers from breathing in airborne particles produced by infected individuals when they stay at least 6 feet away. Employers can strengthen physical distancing measures by reducing the number of people or the density of employees at the workplace. To reduce workplace employee density, employers can implement flexible worksites, work hours, meetings and travel times, or allow employees to work remotely when possible.

In places where physical distancing cannot be practiced, employers should install transparent shields or other solid barriers to separate employees from others. Barriers must block face-to-face pathways between individuals in order to prevent direct transmission of respiratory droplets. When barrier openings are necessary, they should be as small as possible.

Face Coverings

Employers must provide all employees with face coverings. Face coverings must be made of at least two layers of tightly woven breathable fabric, such as cotton, and should not have exhalation valves or vents. However, when an employee’s job tasks require a respirator, employers must follow OSHA’s requirements for respiratory protection.

All individuals must be required to wear a face covering, except for:

  • Individuals under the age of 2; or
  • Individuals actively consuming food or beverages on-site.

Hygiene Practices

Employers must promote personal health monitoring and good personal hygiene, including hand-washing and respiratory etiquette. To accomplish this, employers should provide employees with time to wash their hands often or to use hand sanitizer. Posters should be prominently displayed in workplace areas to encourage good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

In addition, employers should ensure that employees, customers and visitors have adequate supplies to frequently clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes. Necessary supplies may include, but are not limited to:

  • Tissues and no-touch trash cans
  • Soap and warm water at fixed worksites and, if not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol
  • Touchless hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations

Ventilation

The CDC has released guidance on ways to improve ventilation and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in buildings. Some of the CDC’s recommendations are based on the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some of these recommendations include:

  • Increasing ventilation rates when possible;
  • Increasing fresh outdoor air by opening windows and doors;
  • Using fans to increase effectiveness of open windows;
  • Checking filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed; and
  • Considering the use of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplement to help inactivate SARS-CoV-2, especially if options for increasing room ventilation are limited.

Personal Protective Equipment

When the measures above cannot be implemented or do not protect employees fully, OSHA standards require employers to provide PPE to supplement other engineering or administrative controls.

Employers must determine what PPE is necessary (e.g., respirator, face shield, protective gowns and gloves). When PPE is required, employers must:

  • Provide necessary PPE at no cost to their employees
  • Make sure that all PPE is used and provided in accordance with applicable OSHA standards and other industry-specific guidance. 

There are times when PPE is not required under OSHA standards or other industry-specific guidance. However, some employees may still have a legal right to PPE as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, some employees may also want to use PPE if they are concerned about their personal safety.

Recording and Reporting COVID-19

Employers are responsible for recording work-related cases of COVID-19 illness on their OSHA 300 log if the case:

Employers must report a fatality to OSHA if the fatality occurs within 30 days of the work-related incident.  For COVID-19 cases, an incident means an exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. In order for a case of COVID-19 to be reportable, a fatality due to COVID-19 must occur within 30 days of a work-related exposure. The employer must report the fatality within eight hours of knowing both that the employee has died and that the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19.

Employers must also report inpatient hospitalizations to OSHA if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident. For COVID-19 cases, an incident means an exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. An inpatient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of a work-related exposure. The employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident and that the cause of the inpatient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19.

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!

Top Cybersecurity Takeaways From 2020

Top Cybersecurity Takeaways From 2020

Top Cybersecurity Takeaways From 2020

According to a recent report from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), cyberattacks currently reign as the fastest growing form of crime. In addition to security and reputational repercussions, these attacks can often cause significant financial disruption—with global cybercrime costs estimated to reach a startling $6 trillion during 2021. The Top Cybersecurity Takeaways from 2020 are listed below.

cybersecurity takeaways

No organizations are immune to cyberattacks. In fact, over half (53%) of respondents from ISACA’s report expect to experience a cyberattack within the coming year. With this in mind, it’s important to review top cyber trends from the last 12 months and respond accordingly to ensure your organization remains safe and secure in 2021. Here are some of the most common cyber concerns from 2020, as well as best practices for avoiding them:

  • Social engineering—Cybercriminals implement social engineering scams to manipulate their victims into sharing sensitive information. This manipulation usually occurs in the form of impersonating an individual or organization that the victim trusts, thus making the victim feel falsely comfortable with providing their information. While these scams can happen via text, phone call or email, the latter method (also known as phishing) is the most popular. To keep these scams from wreaking havoc on your organization, instruct staff to always verify the identity of the individual or organization they are communicating with and be wary of sharing any sensitive information over the phone or online.
  • Ransomware—Ransomware is a type of malicious software that cybercriminals use to compromise a device (or multiple devices) and demand a large payment be made before restoring the technology for the victim. Since ransomware often appears in the form of deceptive links or attachments, encourage employees to never click on suspicious links or download attachments from unknown senders.
  • Software update issues—Although conducting routine software updates may seem like an arbitrary act, it can make all the difference in protecting your organization. Failing to update your software regularly can create major cybersecurity gaps, making it easier for cybercriminals to infiltrate your systems. That being said, keep staff on a strict update schedule, and consider using a patch management system to further assist with updates.

Cybersecurity Takeaways: The Importance of Promoting Strong Passwords

Cyberattack methods continue to grow and evolve over time. One specific tactic that cybercriminals frequently utilize is hacking victims’ accounts or devices by cracking their passwords.

This tactic is often all too easy for cybercriminals when their targets fail to create strong enough passwords to ward off password-cracking technology or—in some cases—simple guesses.

Nevertheless, cybersecurity experts confirm that establishing an effective password can increase the amount of time it would take for a cybercriminal to hack into an account or device from just a few hours to several years.

Taking this into consideration, password strength should be a top priority across your organization. Encourage your employees to create proper passwords with this guidance:

  • Focus on length—Choose a password that’s eight to 16 characters long.
  • Make it unique—Use at least two special characters within your password. Don’t use family or pet names, special dates or common phrases as your password.
  • Switch it up—Remember to change your password every 30-45 days.
  • Refrain from recycling—Never reuse or repeat a password across devices or accounts.
cybersecurity takeaways

Cybersecurity Takeaways: How to Prevent a Malware Attack

Malware is a form of malicious software that cybercriminals deploy via unsafe links, downloaded attachments or other virus-ridden programs with the intention of disrupting normal computing operations, collecting sensitive information and controlling your organization’s technology system resources. Malware programs are being produced at an alarming rate and are consistently changing in form and purpose, making detection and prevention increasingly difficult for organizations across industry lines.

According to recent research, nearly 980 million (and counting) malware programs currently exist, while 350,000 new pieces of malware are discovered each day. What’s worse, an estimated four companies are targeted by a malware attack every minute.

Consider the following guidance to help prevent malware attacks:

  • Secure your systems—Take steps to protect your organizational devices from potential malware exposures. This may entail:
  • Using a virtual private network (VPN) for all internet-based activities (e.g., browsing and sending emails)
  • Installing (and regularly updating) antivirus software on all devices
  • Implementing a firewall to block cybercriminals from accessing your organization’s VPN
  • Restricting employees’ access to websites that aren’t secure
  • Limiting which employees receive administrative controls to prevent inexperienced staff from mistakenly downloading a malicious program
  • Educate your employees—Next, be sure to train your employees on how to prevent and respond to a malware attack. Give your staff these tips:
  • Avoid opening or responding to emails from individuals or organizations you don’t know. If an email claims to be from a trusted source, be sure to verify their identity by double-checking the address.
  • Never click on suspicious links or pop-ups—whether they’re in an email or on a website. Similarly, avoid downloading attachments or software programs from unknown sources or locations.
  • Only browse safe and secure websites on organizational devices. Refrain from using workplace devices for personal browsing.
  • If you suspect a malware attack, contact your manager or the IT department immediately for further guidance.
  • Ensure adequate coverage—Lastly, it’s crucial to secure proper insurance coverage to stay protected in the event of a cyberattack. After all, even with proper cybersecurity measures in place, attacks can still occur.

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 cyber liability insurance quote!

Employer OSHA Liabilities for Remote Workers

Employer OSHA Liabilities for Remote Workers

Employer OSHA Liabilities for Remote Workers

Encouraging remote work has become a new normal for a variety of reasons. Whether it is to reduce costs of operating a physical place of business, address pandemic reasons or allow employees to have a better work-life balance, more and more workers are working from home. However, many organizations are not aware of how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees injuries that occur at an employee’s home. OSHA has provided guidance on how to deal with remote worker injuries and inspections.

Home Offices vs. Home-based Worksites

To start, it is important to distinguish home offices from home-based worksites for the purposes of OSHA inspections.  Home offices are where an employee engages in office work activities. This consists of activities that use office equipment like computers and telephones.

In contrast, a home-based worksite is an area of an employee’s personal residence where the employee performs work of the employer (e.g., home manufacturing operations such as industrial sewing or woodworking).

The difference between the two is that one consists of office work and the other involves using an area of the home for employees to perform the work of the employer. This is important because the difference determines whether OSHA will perform an inspection.

OSHA Inspection Guidance for Remote Workers

OSHA has policies for both home offices and home-based worksites. The policy for home offices is that OSHA will not conduct inspections of an employee’s home office or hold employers liable for employees’ home offices. OSHA has never conducted inspections of home offices, but it will with certain types of home-based worksites that are dangerous or hazardous.

OSHA will only conduct inspections of other home-based worksites if it receives a complaint or referral that indicates one of the following:

  • There is a violation of a safety or health standard that threatens physical harm.
  • Imminent danger exists (including reports of a work-related fatality).

The inspection is limited only to the employee’s work activities since OSHA regulations do not apply to an employee’s house. For example, if a cabinet manufacturer sends home wood cutting tools for their employee to use for building cabinetry remotely, the inspection would be limited to the area in which the employee is working and would include the tools that were being used.

It is important for you to note as an employer that, in these situations, you are responsible for any hazards caused by materials, equipment or work processes that you provide or require to be used in the employee’s home.

If an inspection does occur, OSHA regulations will apply as they normally would, and the inspection process will be completed according to the standards—except what has been modified by the OSHA guidance for worksites in employees’ homes.

OSHA Liabilities for Remote Workers: Injury and Illness Tracking

Under OSHA, there are injury and illness recordkeeping requirements. An injury or illness that occurs while the employee is working from home is considered a work-related injury or illness if it directly relates to the activities of the job rather than the activities in the home environment. An injury is recordable if it is a work-related:

  • Fatality
  • Injury or illness that results in the loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job
  • Injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Needlestick or sharps injury, medical removal, hearing loss or tuberculosis

Employers must record work-related injuries that occur at home on the OSHA 300 logs like they would if employees were on-site and injured.

An example of a non-work-related injury is if an employee runs to pick up the work phone during work hours and trips, which results in an injury to the employee. Another example is when an employee hears their child crying, gets up to tend to their child and is injured in the process. Although both injuries occurred during work, they did not directly relate to the performance of the job. They occurred due to the general home environment.

While OSHA is not entering homes for inspections for home office complaints, you will still need to keep a record of those injuries or illnesses that are considered OSHA recordables. This will cause an increase in your incident rate that can be compared to industry standards under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). If your incident rate is high for the industry average, your organization can be flagged, alerting OSHA that there is an issue with your safety program. A high incident rate could likely initiate an audit at your facility.

Being Proactive

You can decrease the risk of recordable OSHA injuries by being proactive. Reducing these recordable injuries will lower your incident rate.

You should have a remote worker policy drafted and implemented so there is documentation of your expectations as an employer. The policy should define job tasks for each job description. This provides guidance to those working from home. It also helps provide documentation that may be needed to rebut a complaint from OSHA.

Job descriptions provide detailed information of what an employee should be doing for their job tasks. This is helpful because, if an employee is injured while performing an activity that is not within the job description, it does not have to be documented on the OSHA 300 logs.

You should also provide materials to assist employees in setting up their home office. Assisting employees with the setup of their home office to prevent any ergonomic issues is one way to reduce the risk of a remote office injury. This can be done by providing information to employees on:

  • How to set up their workstations
  • Proper posture
  • How often to take breaks
  • Stretches they can use during their shift
  • How exercise can help prevent injuries

A way to monitor the employee’s participation with proper setup of their workstation is to participate in virtual meetings where the employee can show the employer their workstation. This can be done by using a mobile webcam. Another option is to require employees to perform at home office inspections themselves (like a mini audit of their workstations) and have them submit them to you for review.

By providing training and assistance to your employees, it can help reduce the risk of having an OSHA recordable injury. Getting creative to drive safety initiatives without overstepping privacy boundaries of a person’s home can be challenging, but ultimately can be done. It can help prevent OSHA inspections and costly injuries, and reduce incident rates.

For more risk management guidance, 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.

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

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.

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