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2021 Workplace Safety Index: the top 10 causes of disabling injuries - Helmsman

2021 Workplace Safety Index: the top 10 causes of disabling injuries

From back injuries to broken bones, the top 10 causes of workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses more than $1 billion a week.

Workplace injuries are not limited to high-risk industries such as manufacturing and construction. Disabling injuries can occur on any job, making workplace safety a top concern for employers.

The 2021 Workplace Safety Index (WSI) compiles the 10 causes of the most serious disabling workplace injuries – those that caused employees to miss work for more than five days – and ranks them by direct cost to employers based on medical and lost-wage expenses.

The top 10 causes of
disabling workplace injuries
Disabling workplace injuries cost businesses more than $58 billion every year.
The first step in protecting your business and workforce is knowing how serious injuries happen.
clipboard check list
1. Handling objects | Cost per year $13.30B | Watch for: heavy boxes
1. Handling objects1
Cost per year: $13.30B
Watch for: heavy boxes
2. Falls on same level | Cost per year $10.5B | Watch for: wet floors
2. Falls on the same level
Cost per year: $10.58B
Watch for: wet floors
3. Falls to lower level | Cost per year $6.26B | Watch for: wobbly ladders
3. Falls to lower level
Cost per year: $6.26B
Watch for: wobbly ladders
4. Being hit by objects | Cost per year $5.61B | Watch for: falling objects
4. Being hit by objects2
Cost per year: $5.61B
Watch for: falling objects
5. Awkward postures | Cost per year $4.71B | Watch for: stepping down from a vehicle
5. Awkward postures3
Cost per year: $4.71B
Watch for: stepping down from a vehicle
6. Vehicles crashes | Cost per year $3.16B | Watch for: distracted drivers
6. Vehicle crashes4
Cost per year: $3.16B
Watch for: distracted drivers
7. Slip or trip without fall | Cost per year $2.52B | Watch for: slippery or uneven walkways
7. Slip or trip without fall
Cost per year: $2.52B
Watch for: slippery or uneven walkways
8. Colliding with objects or equipment | Cost per year $2.46B | Watch for: fixed objects in the work or workspace
8. Colliding with
objects or equipment5

Cost per year: $2.46B
Watch for: fixed objects in the work or workspace
9. Colliding with objects | Cost per year $2.0B | Watch for: That concrete pillar
9. Caught in equipment
or machines6

Cost per year: $2.01B
Watch for: moving/rotating machinery parts
10. Repetitive motions involving microtasks  | Cost per year $1.66B | Watch for: hand- and shoulder-intensive work
10. Repetitive motions
involving microtasks

Cost per year: $1.66B
Watch for: hand- and shoulder-intensive work

Make sure to work with a trusted TPA to examine workplace injuries in your own business, and how you can effectively reduce those risks. Because a safer workplace isn’t just good for employees; it’s good for the bottom line.

Study Methodology:
The annual Workplace Safety Index is based on information from Liberty Mutual Insurance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). BLS non-fatal injury data are analyzed with the Liberty Mutual data to determine which events caused employees to miss more than five days of work, and then to rank those events by workers compensation costs, which are then scaled to the NASI total cost.

To capture accurate injury cost data, each index is based on data three years prior. Accordingly, the 2021 index reflects 2018 data.

1. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Overexertion involving outside sources” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
2. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Struck by object or equipment” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
3. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Other exertions or bodily reactions” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
4. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
5. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Struck against object or equipment” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
6. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.

Prejudgment interest legislation causing controversy for Illinois lawmakers

Generally, U.S. courts apply the common law rule that prejudgment interest is not available in tort actions in the absence of a statute or court rule. While Illinois does not currently recognize prejudgment interest, that was threatened to change if legislation (HB 3360[i] as amended by Senate Floor Amendment 1[ii]) was signed by Governor Pritzker.

The original measure, advanced by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) in early January, would change how interest is calculated for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Most often, these personal injury cases are brought against a wide range of businesses, including healthcare, manufacturing, retailers, insurers, hotels, and airlines. As a result, the proposal would allow plaintiffs to recover 9 percent annual prejudgment interest in any personal injury lawsuit or arbitration where damages are awarded — this applies to economic and noneconomic damage awards alike.

Proponents of the legislation argue that it would only apply to a fraction of cases because 97 percent of civil cases reach a settlement. ITLA claims having this law would encourage settlements, lessen the burden on the court system, and save taxpayers money. According to one news report, the ITLA president has claimed “deep-pocketed defendants often ‘drag out’ cases to wear down injured patients who may not be able to afford” necessary medical treatment.

Opponents argue that the “notice” requirement triggering the interest is vague, undefined, and will introduce uncertainty into the system. They contend that the interest rate is high or out of step with states that allow prejudgment interest, and that noneconomic damages are generally excluded from any interest calculation.

Cries to veto HB3360 grew too loud to ignore.

Over the last few months, efforts against the legislation quickly materialized and continue to grow. Illinois trade groups, including the Manufacturers’ Association, the Retail Merchants Association, State Medical Society, Health and Hospital Association, and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, have been holding editorial board meetings to voice their opposition[iii]. The Chamber indicated that the bill would “saddle employers already reeling from the pandemic with more costs.”[iv]

Lawmakers are also weighing in on the controversial topic — State Representative and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin penned a plea to the governor, voicing opposition to the bill.

You can read his full letter here.

Gubernatorial action

The measure was sent to Governor Pritzker for his consideration on February 4, 2021. The governor had 60 calendar days to act – either veto the bill, issue an amendatory veto (which will kill the bill), sign it, or do nothing and it becomes law. With the Governor messaging that he would veto the bill, ITLA pushed to file a trailer bill SB 72.

The first filed amendment noted below, while it passed committee, saw significant pushback from hospitals (specifically “safety net hospitals”) and concerns raised by majority Democratic legislators in what was a 90-plus minute committee debate. So, ITLA went back to the drawing board, and crafted a new House Floor Amendment 2 to SB 72 that was debated and ultimately passed on March 18th by the House, on a partisan rollcall vote.  Key provision in Floor Amendment 2, among other changes:

  • It is de-coupled from the original prejudgment interest bill, the lame-duck HB 3360 ;
  • Lowers prejudgment interest from 9% to 6% (Amendment 1 to SB 72 was 7%), which now applies on all damages except punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, or statutory costs;
  • Interest begins to accrue from when the action is filed and cannot accrue for more than five (5) years;
  • Makes various changes related to the timing and acceptance or rejection of settlement offers, and the application of prejudgment interest in those instances;
  • Continues to exempt state and local governments, (which was added in Amendment 1); and
  • Applies to injuries or deaths that occurred before the effective date of the act, with interest accruing on the later of the date the action is filed or the effective date of the act (7/1/21 if signed), whichever is later.

As expected, Governor Pritzker vetoed the original bill, HB 3360 on March 25, 2021, the same day the Senate concurred in the House’s changes to SB 72, in a not so coincidental move. Despite some continued opposition from business interests, with the Hospital Association and a few other medical stakeholders neutral, we expect the compromise measure to be signed into law by the governor.

[i] https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=3360&GAID=15&DocTypeID=HB&LegId=119866&SessionID=108&GA=101

[ii] https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=10100HB3360sam001&GA=101&SessionId=108&DocTypeId=HB&LegID=119866&DocNum=3360&GAID=15&SpecSess=&Session=

[iii] https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-illinois-covid-recovery-economy-tort-reform-20210217-qp57zpe2hjcxpkpppeybu5jcti-story.html

[iv] https://www.chicagolandchamber.org/chamber-news/chicagoland-chamber-urges-a-veto-of-sb-72-and-hb-3360/

 

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

A delay in court – Prop 22 problems for gig workers

In the most expensive ballot initiative in the state’s history, California voters approved Proposition 22 last November, making it easier for employers to classify gig workers as independent contractors. However, Prop 22 advocates, who put forth more than $100 million in support of the measure, are cautious in their celebration.

As recently as February 10, 2021, the California Supreme Court declined to decide whether Prop 22 trumps pending litigation prior to the measure’s December 16, 2020, effective date. In addition, a pending constitutional challenge alleges the newly approved measure is invalid because it usurps the plenary power of the legislature and eliminates workers’ legally guaranteed rights. This challenge[i] by Prop 22 opponents is currently pending before a lower court in California and is expected to reach the state’s supreme court.

Biden administration scraps prior rules that favored workers’ independence

February report from Bloomberg Law signaled that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is retreating from the Trump administration’s opinion that gig workers are exempt from wage protections because they’re independent contractors[ii]. The DOL’s Wage and Hour Administration recently scrapped a pair of interpretive letters from 2019, including one that platform-based companies such as Uber and Instacart could have used as a legal defense against claims that their drivers are employees subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA’s) minimum wage and overtime provisions. 

With the Biden administration more closely scrutinizing whether these app-based businesses can continue to treat their workforce of service providers as independent contractors, employers should be prepared for additional screening measures when classifying workers as independent contractors during the current administration.

U.K.’s top court rules that Uber drivers are workers in a blow to gig economy

Uber’s arguments that its drivers are independent contractors and eligible for classification as such fell on deaf ears in a recent unanimous ruling by the U.K.’s Supreme Court[iii] — ending a legal battle that began in 2016 and has created an existential threat to Uber’s business model in the United Kingdom.

The firm contends that the U.K. Court’s ruling is limited to the drivers that were governed by the contract that existed in 2016. In the U.S., Uber plans to create and advocate for a hybrid model of classifying workers that enjoys the benefits of independence and simultaneously concedes certain worker benefits and protections. The jury is still out on whether and how the hybrid/third way might look and work for the gig economy.

Conclusion

Although Prop 22 was approved by California voters last November, there is no end in sight for the debate on classifying gig workers as independent contractors. Pending decisions in the lower courts, as well as the California and U.K. Supreme Courts, app-based businesses like Uber and Lyft do not have a clear path forward regarding workers’ rights and classifications.

The sheer magnitude and increasing influence wielded by this growing sector of the gig economy will likely lead to a hybrid classification scheme for gig workers that preserves some level of independence and includes certain benefits that are currently reserved for employees.

 

[i] https://aboutblaw.com/VA8

[ii] https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/trumps-gig-worker-guidance-thrown-out-by-biden-labor-department

[iii] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/19/uk-supreme-court-rules-uber-drivers-are-workers-not-contractors.html#:~:text=The%20U.K.’s%20Supreme%20Court,with%20passengers%20through%20an%20app

 

 

 

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

New York regulator leads the way on cyber-related risks

The New York Department of Financial Services (NY DFS), the state’s leading financial regulatory office, has created a Cyber Insurance Risk Framework for all property and casualty insurers authorized to operate in New York[i]. This call for stronger guidelines on cyber regulation is the result of multiple industry factors, including increased risk due to remote work during the COVID-19 era, the advent and growth of ransomware, and the recently revealed SolarWinds cyberattack.

This is the first such guidance offered to the industry by a U.S. regulator and reflects DFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell’s view that “cybersecurity is now critically important to almost every aspect of modern life – from consumer protection to national security” and that “cyber insurance plays a key role in managing and reducing cyber risk.“[ii]

This is not the DFS’s first foray into cyber regulation — in 2017, the department was also the first state insurance regulator to promote a cybersecurity regulation[iii] for financial services, designed to protect customer information held by insurers, banks, and other financial service providers. Continued into 2019, the DFS then created a separate Cybersecurity Division to lead the department’s regulatory efforts in this area.

Under the latest announcement, the DFS is focused on the growing market for cybersecurity insurance[iv], highlighting critical issues like data extortion and silent-cyber risks. As part of the recommended guidance, the office has compiled the collective insights into a comprehensive best practices plan, allowing insurers to manage their cyber insurance risk more effectively.

Cyber insurance best practices

While several of the best practices only impact insurers and will have little direct impact on insureds, others will clearly affect the interaction between insurers and their commercial customers:

Limit exposure to silent-cyber insurance risk

What does “silent-cyber” mean? Silent, or non affirmative, cyber insurance risk is the chance that an insurer might be required to cover loss from a cyber incident under an insurance policy that does not explicitly mention cyber. The DFS urges that all insurers assess their potential exposures, even those that do not explicitly offer cyber insurance, as this type of risk often impacts general liability and product liability, errors and omissions, and burglary and theft policies.

To mitigate against this risk, the DFS suggests making the cyber coverage explicitly clear in any policy that could be subject to a cyber claim. Insurers are also urged to buy reinsurance for this risk while they endeavor to identify and eliminate it, a process the DFS recognizes will take some time.

Evaluate systemic risk

It is important that insurers offering cyber insurance regularly evaluate systemic risk, including the risk posed by any critical third-party business vendors. This evaluation should include stress testing based on realistic, catastrophic cyber events (such as the 2017 NotPetya or the 2020 SolarWinds attacks) to ensure all opportunities for coverage have been explored.

Rigorously measure insured risk

Insurers that offer cyber insurance should have a data-driven, comprehensive plan for auditing cyber risk. This process includes gathering information on cybersecurity programs and researching topics like corporate governance and controls, vulnerability management, access controls, encryption, endpoint monitoring, boundary defenses, incident response planning, and third-party security policies. 

Educate insureds and insurance producers

The DFS urges insurers to offer comprehensive information about the value of cybersecurity measures and to incentivize the adoption of better cybersecurity plans by pricing policies based on the effectiveness of each insured’s cybersecurity program.  Insurers should also educate insurance producers about potential cyber exposures, the types and scope of cyber coverage offered, and monetary limits in cyber insurance policies.

Require notice to law enforcement

It is strongly recommended that cyber insurance policies include a requirement that victims notify law enforcement of a cyber event, a practice that some insurers currently follow and one that the department considers to be beneficial to the victim-insured and the public. 

Conclusion

As global threats continue to grow, the issue of cyber insurance will undoubtedly be an increasingly important one for U.S. regulators. With the release of the Cyber Insurance Risk Framework, the NY DFS has signaled its intention to lead the charge in fostering the growth of a robust cyber insurance market.

Not only must insurers take account of the framework’s requirements, including those related to ransomware payments, but commercial insureds and their risk managers and brokers should also review the framework as they assess their cyber insurance needs.

Exactly how this framework will impact the development of cyber insurance coverage and the market for this critical product remain to be seen, but the need to stay on top of this evolving matter is imperative for nearly all businesses.

[i] NYS DFS Insurance Circular Letter No. 2 (2021).

[ii] https://www.dfs.ny.gov/industry_guidance/circular_letters/cl2021_02

[iii] 23 NYCRR Part 500.

[iv] According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the U.S. cyber insurance market was $3.15 billion in 2019. It is estimated that by 2025, it will be more than $20 billion.

 

 

Delayed claims reporting: the true cost to businesses and injured workers

Workplace injuries that go unreported can keep employees on the sidelines — uncertain about treatment and unclear on what to expect under their state’s WC system. When workplace incidents do happen, prompt claim reporting is a key factor to ensuring injured employees receive the necessary care to feel supported in a successful return — and minimizing business impact.

Businesses appreciate the value of speed. Consider these strategies to accelerate your injury reporting:

 

  • Make the connection. Assigning a point of contact responsible for reporting helps employees know who to talk to.
  • Early education. Familiarize employees with the injury reporting process early and often, so they know what to do if the time comes.
  • Leverage technology. Your insurer may have apps, tools, or data enhancements to streamline your reporting to make it faster and easier.
  • Encourage treatment. Discuss injuries in private, and don’t blame or belittle workers for their injuries. Stress your support for their recovery, and help them find the right provider. You don’t want employees hiding an injury.
  • Rapid reporting has clear benefits — track successes and hold management accountable to reporting targets, with a recommended target of 80 percent of workers compensation claims reported within three days.

Get ahead of reporting lag, and you’re advocating for both your workers and your workers compensation outcomes.

Award-winning portal helps ease the pain of on-the-job injuries for all

New tools empower employees, promoting better healing and healthier businesses.

Problem and solution.
Capabilities that simplify employee recovery
Our website encourages participation and follow-through by making it simple for injured workers to:
claims check icon
Find out when a
check is coming
deposit payment icon
Set up direct
deposit for faster
access to payment
communication icon
Contact
adjusters and
specialists
healthcare icon
Find
medical care
providers
question icon
Get answers to common
questions
Engagement that helps improve return to work outcomes
Providing tools like this shows employees you have their back, which can help:
time icon
Reduce
downtime
book icon
Preserve
institutional
knowledge
protection icon
Protect
company culture
injured workers icon
Reduce costs
by improving workers
compensation claim
outcomes
optimize icon
Optimize
production
So much more simple compared to other websites I've used.– Josh H.
Never had an issue getting through to a live person. – Susanna K.
It tells me exactly what I need to see. – Patrick J.

Why it works

Winner of the 2020 Business Insurance Innovation Award, the website was built from the worker’s point of view, using the following four pillars of injured worker advocacy:
Empathy. Put yourself in workers’ shoes to anticipate and meet their needs.
 
Clarity. Use clear, simple language that makes the goals and process easy to understand.
 
Connection. Keep the employer and employee
in the loop.
 
The right care. Keep the employer and
employee in the loop.

What you need to know about the potential impact of COVID-19 on your workers compensation program

It’s hard to overstate the impact of COVID-19 on our communities and the businesses we serve. And while the situation continues to change, and hopefully will improve in time, the impacts to insurance will be felt for many months and years to come. Brokers and risk managers should keep these key areas of focus in mind as we navigate these issues throughout 2021 and beyond.

Key Workers Compensation Impacts of COVID-19

woman in-mask-image

Transmission prevention

Government agency guidance is evolving — monitor and swiftly implement new recommendations, including:
Using cleaning log sheets
Posting signage requiring social distancing and masks
Supplying PPE
Documenting training efforts, incidents of noncompliance, and steps to enforce safety protocols
Maintaining notification procedures, contact tracing, and other actions taken to determine work-relatedness of exposures
Learn more about vaccination from the CDC’s Essential Workers Covid-19 Vaccine Toolkit.
Despite vaccine1 advancements, guidelines2 to minimize the spread will remain in place throughout much of 2021.

Claims issues

Cataloging compliance and preparedness efforts is a key component of navigating COVID-19 claims and helping to minimize additional liability.
Timely claims reporting is critical; delayed claims typically:
focus icon
Are harder to investigate
litigation-icon
Are more likely to involve litigation
cost icon
Cost more overall
injured worker icon
Take longer for injured workers to return
More than 20 states3 have workers compensation presumptions of compensability rules in place. These laws shift the burden to the employer of proving that an employee’s COVID-19 injury was not work related.

Long-term impacts

COVID impacts vary by patient; while many recover fully, some experience relapses and new symptoms for weeks or months.
Longer-term health impacts include:
Shortness of breath
Fatigue
Cognitive issues
Cardiovascular effects
Gastrointestinal issues
Intolerance to physical or mental activity
Low-grade fever
Muscle and joint pain
The long-tail nature of these claims will be felt for years to come, impacting the cost of insurance.
Other workers compensation impacts
Injury creep can occur when injured workers face treatments delays if providers:
healthcare icon
Some facilities may postpone certain elective surgeries based on capacity challenges
appointment-icon-icon
Physical therapy or medical evaluations may be less frequent or be managed virtually by telemedicine
Some businesses have adjusted operations, downsized, or closed temporarily; workers compensation impacts can include:
Reduced WC claims volume for some businesses
Limited light duty or return to work opportunities
Switching costs to train workers on different jobs
All these factors can increase claim durations and create new workplace risks.
Contact your representative today to see how we can help.
computer monitor icon
From risk control guidance to claims handling expertise, we’re here for you.

1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/8-things.html
2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/need-to-know.html
3. https://www.ncci.com/Articles/Pages/COVID-19.aspx

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so you should ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards.

No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

Three long-term impacts of COVID-19 on workers compensation claims

COVID-19 has impacted nearly every industry, and as a result, both employers and employees are facing growing concerns regarding the long-term impact of the virus—and how it is complicating injured worker recoveries.  

For example, according to an article by the University of California Davis, we know that a growing number of people who become ill with the virus will experience mild to moderate symptoms for a prolonged period of time. Referred to as “long COVID-19” or “long-haulers”, these people can exhibit an expanding array of potentially chronic symptoms—including symptoms that may surface at a later date. As an employer, it’s important to not only understand and prepare for the uncertainty surrounding the lingering and long-term effects of a COVID-19 recovery, but also the impact the illness may have on future workers compensation claims. Here’s what you can expect:

 

COVID-19 claims are likely to be unique, not straightforward.

A common denominator of COVID-19 is that it can affect everyone differently. So, while some of your employees may be able to return to work quickly in a more normal timeframe, others can experience relapses that can take several weeks or longer to recover from.

According to The Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • Roughly 10 percent of individuals stricken with COVID-19 experience prolonged symptoms.
  • Even among those that experience mild symptoms, more than 33 percent of individuals infected with the virus had not recovered fully two to three weeks after testing positive.
  • In one study, 87 percent of individuals infected reported the persistence of at least one symptom.

Because COVID-19 is a new disease, little is known so far about what’s causing the persistence of symptoms or the appearance of new ones – and what’s hindering full recovery. Among the longer-term health problems associated with COVID-19 are shortness of breath, fatigue, cognitive issues, cardiovascular effects, gastrointestinal issues, low-grade fever, intolerance to physical or mental activity, and muscle and joint pains. What this means is that each COVID-19 occurrence may have distinct consequences – on both your employees and the impact of having a long road to recovery, but also challenging your business’ risk planning efforts.

COVID-19 workers compensation claims may have long tails, with full impact unknown until later.

Like many employers, you may have had to scale back operations at various points during the pandemic with workers logging fewer hours, working remotely, or being furloughed. As a result, your business may have experienced a modest decrease in the number of annual workers compensation claims.  However, there continue to be concerns about the challenging long-tail nature of COVID-19 claims. According to the “2020 State of the Line Guide” by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), there are several aspects that could easily extend active claims. The report highlights COVID-19 claim-duration predictions, among them:

  • Severity of illness will dictate costs – from low-cost medical care to treat mild symptoms, to hospital stays and/or extended rehabilitation for more serious cases.
  • Delayed medical care and physical therapy for other nonacute conditions may contribute to injury creep – extending claim duration and putting upward pressure on costs.
  • Some COVID-19 claims may also involve a mental component and could require temporary or long-term treatment.

The still-evolving long-tail nature of these claims means that lingering symptoms can impact both your recovering employees and future  workers compensation costs. 

COVID-19 experiences pose challenges to return to work norms and employee staffing.

A key part of managing your workers compensation costs is ensuring timely medical care for employees in order to support return to work efforts as quickly and safely as possible after recovery. Due to varying state mandates, many medical facilities have delayed elective procedures and have curtailed the amount of available office appointments – making medical care more difficult to come by for some employees. Also, due to decreased staffing, businesses may have fewer return to work and light-duty opportunities available, which could also prolong the length of a claim.

Conclusion

When assessing the potential longer-term COVID-19 impact, many factors play a role in affecting your business’ claims experience as you continue to navigate risk management. At Helmsman Management Services, we understand the challenges your business is up against because of COVID-19 as you continue to manage workers compensation claims costs. For additional COVID-19 resources, please visit our Coronavirus Guidance page.

 

 

Adapting to a new courtroom reality

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a push toward virtual litigation, affecting events from arbitrations and depositions to bench trials and summary jury trials. We’re identifying the ripple effects to help companies know the true risk of litigation and prepare accordingly.

faster icon
Cases are coming to trial faster.
Without travel to consider, it’s easier to coordinate and schedule trials. If your company is involved in litigation, it’s important to be ready to move faster than you might normally expect.
icon verdicts
Outsize verdicts are still in play.
It’s too early to know if the nuclear verdict trend will withstand the move to virtual litigation, but we’ve seen juries hold companies liable and assign large penalties.
icon state by state
State-by-state preference complicates the picture.
Differences from state to state, and more specifically region by region within states, could make it hard to draw conclusions about how virtual litigation impacts award size. In sections of states that push for virtual trials, we expect to have more data from which to gather insights. In areas that are reluctant to push for a virtual trial when one or both parties are opposed, it will likely take more time to get a read.
inference icon
Situations are ripe for inference.
With juries gathered and meeting more frequently and litigation moving at a faster pace, there’s an abundance of insights to gather. We’re taking advantage, carefully tracking outcomes and identifying trends that can help us plan optimal strategies and guide clients best.
In a September trial conducted via Zoom, a Florida jury handed a $411M verdict1 to a trucking company, deciding in favor of the plaintiff, a motorcyclist who sustained severe injuries in a 45-vehicle collision in 2018.
This may be the biggest verdict ever decided against a defendant consisting of a single company.
icon computer
No computer, no jury.
Jurists need computers and internet access to participate. This requirement could inadvertently limit many from participating as jurors and change the composition of juries. And that means we might see a rise in appeals based on objections that jury pools are not representative.
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What we’re doing to help protect clients now
It’s too risky to wait for a crystal-clear picture to help companies properly evaluate the risk of litigation and keep a lid on claims costs. That’s why we put two types of training in motion as soon as virtual litigation kicked off.
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Rigorous training for legal teams.
In September, Liberty Mutual’s new Virtual Advocacy Academy began preparing our legal teams and claims specialists for a virtual environment. It includes sessions on topics that range from preparing witnesses to presenting an oral argument. Each segment is recorded for easy reference.
Preparing counsel for virtual scenarios.
Suddenly doctors and lawyers that typically remain behind the scenes in a courtroom are getting face time. With virtual training, our teams ensure they are providing the best possible defense by preparing counsel to present themselves effectively in this new environment.
To learn more about virtual litigation and how we’re preparing for its impact, please contact your Helmsman representative.

1 https://www.freightwaves.com/news/whopping-411-million-nuclear-verdict-in-florida-said-to-be-biggest-ever-and-tough-to-collect

COVID-19 pandemic leads to a flurry of workers compensation presumption proposals

The coronavirus pandemic, the likes of which the United States had not seen for more than a century, prompted lawmakers in numerous states to enact broad protections for workers. As of September 30, 2020, a dozen states adopted regulations and issued executive orders that establish compensability presumptions for workers. An additional nine states enacted laws that create a presumption in favor of various categories of workers according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance1. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that COVID-19-related worker illnesses will add $81.5 billion to the workers compensation system2.

 

Our Public Affairs team lobbies for limitations

 

Our Public Affairs team engaged with policymakers dating back to March during the early days of the onslaught of workers compensation-related legislative proposals and executive actions. The team leveraged its memberships in various trade associations and chambers of commerce to lobby for reasonable and narrowly tailored compensability presumptions. Several key limitations sought by Public Affairs and allies include: (1) adoption or enactment of a disputable, rather than conclusive, presumption of compensability; (2) application of the law or order to a limited scope of workers; (3) limitation on the effectiveness of the laws and orders to a finite and reasonable timeframe; and (4) mandatory positive COVID-19 test result rather than mere exposure to the coronavirus. Most of the orders, rules proposed, and statutes enacted in the various states adhere to these tenets.

 

State spotlight – California

 

On March 6, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom was among the first chief executives to issue an executive order3  that created a rebuttable presumption of injury and compensability for employees who work outside the home and test positive for COVID-19. Newsom’s initial order was problematic to employers for several reasons. First, it shifted the burden from employees who were obligated to substantiate their claims that an injury occurred in the course and scope of employment to employers now tasked with overcoming a presumption that an injury occurred while on the job. Second, the order was remarkable for its scope, applying to a broad spectrum of employees who were not able to work from home, not just “essential workers,” such as those specifically identified in the Federal government’s list of “essential critical infrastructure workers”4  that Newsom referenced in his March 19 shelter-in-place order. Finally, the order provided employers only 30 days from the submission of a claim form to determine compensability. Governor Newsom issued the order while the legislature was temporarily adjourned, thus there were no committee hearings and limited opportunity to negotiate the language. The order applied to injuries sustained beginning March 19, 2020, and expired after 60 days — on July 6 — which set the stage for legislative action.

 

Legislators extend and expand California governor’s order

 

California lawmakers returned to Sacramento on July 27 after several members and staff tested positive for COVID-19 and safety-related precautions led to an unscheduled three-month recess. Limited access to members and staff in the capitol created unique and unprecedented challenges for lobbyists to engage and influence proposals. Senate Bill 1159 was one of several workers compensation legislative proposals that sought to expand benefits for employees who test positive for COVID-19 beyond Governor Newsom’s March 6 executive order5 . On August 1, nearly 100 organizations coauthored a letter opposing an earlier version of SB 1159 that would have extended a disputable presumption in favor of compensability until July 2024.

 

On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed SB 1159, which codifies his earlier executive order and establishes a presumption of work causation for any positive COVID-19 test within 14 days of working for essential workers, including first responders, peace officers, and healthcare providers. A third section of SB 1159 extends the disputable presumption to all workers where an “outbreak” of four employees at work sites with fewer than 100 employees or 4 percent of employees at work sites with more than 100 workers test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days.  The latter two presumptions may be triggered during the period commencing July 6, 2020, and extends until January 1, 2023. 

 

New Jersey Governor Murphy approves WC presumption bill

 

On September 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill (SB) 2380 into law. SB 2380 creates a rebuttable presumption of workers compensation coverage for COVID-19 cases contracted by “essential employees” during a public health emergency declared by an executive order of the governor. The law is effective immediately and retroactive to March 9, 2020. The law defines “essential employee” as “an employee in the public or private sector who during a state of emergency:”

 

  • is a public safety worker or first responder, including any fire, police, or other emergency responders;
  • is involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in healthcare facilities, residential facilities, or homes;
  • performs functions which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale, and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies for conducting essential business and work at home; or
  • is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.

What should employers and insurers expect in 2021?

 Unless and until the country controls the spread of COVID-19, legislators will continue expanding benefits for frontline workers who will face greater exposure to the coronavirus as cities and counties reopen. More states, especially ones saddled with budget deficits from economic downturns, will push to ensure workers compensation responds for employees exposed to the coronavirus. Future challenges will include retroactivity of the presumption, scope of workers eligible for expanded benefits, and the duration of compensability presumptions enacted.

 

1 State activity: COVID-19 WC Compensability presumptions

2 COVID-19 and Workers Compensation: Modeling Potential Impacts

3 Executive order N-62-20

4  Advisory memorandum on identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response

5 Executive order N-33-20

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

The impact of COVID-19 and federal relief on future budgets

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn created the perfect storm for state and local budgets in the United States. The full extent of the fiscal problem is unknown and greatly dependent on the course of the virus.

States were generally on course for FY20 beginning July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, when the pandemic hit in March. State stay-at-home mandates, imposed to slow the spread of the pandemic, negatively impacted consumer spending, which significantly reduced sales and excise tax revenues. Unemployment skyrocketed, resulting in decreased state income and payroll taxes. The April 15 tax filing deadline was extended to August 15, adding further uncertainty regarding revenue.

The uncertainty and reduction in revenue came at a time when emergency response by government to COVID-19 increased state operating costs dramatically. Cities and towns were also negatively impacted with reductions in every revenue source, including property and sales tax and permit and utility fees.

Although revenue forecasts have been challenging because of the uncertainty associated with the virus, most states are anticipating budget shortfalls through FY21 or longer. Unlike the federal government, states generally cannot borrow funds because there are statutory or constitutional requirements to enact balanced budgets.

The federal government has taken several steps to address COVID-19. Starting in March, the federal government enacted several appropriation bills to address the pandemic.

The question is: will Congress pass additional legislation to address the pandemic? Congress went back in session on November 9 but agreement on Phase IV COVID-19 funding is still uncertain. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attempted to negotiate a new COVID-19 relief bill. The Speaker proposed a $2.2 trillion measure while the White House, through Mnuchin, was willing to agree to $1.8 trillion. Before the election, President Trump said we will have a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election, but the was seemingly based on the condition of him winning re-election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he will not take up an expensive spending bill. Instead, McConnell plans on moving forward with a narrow $500 billion measure.

The major sticking points are the amount of the appropriation and the level of unemployment benefits and whether the bill contains state and local aid and liability protections for business. Republican and Democratic lawmakers that are in tight election races are pushing for a deal before the election. Although there has been some progress, it is uncertain whether lawmakers will reach an agreement before the election.

Even if there is significant federal funding to state and local governments, many believe that there will still be a need for independent solutions to address budget shortfalls at the state and local level. The impact on individual states will depend on the impact of COVID-19, the amount in any state rainy day fund and how well the state pension system is funded. To impact budget deficits immediately, states will use rainy day funds, reduce services or workforce levels, raise current taxes or fees, offer early retirement programs, defer costs, or look for new tax revenue.

The states may also pursue structural changes to reduce costs. They can look to maximize COVID-19 federal funds, consolidate government or services, reorganize, and reduce unnecessary activities. State government can also use tools and technologies to create efficiencies. States will likely use some combination of budget cuts, raising existing tax rates, and introducing new tax revenue sources to close budget gaps.

Ultimately the course of action any state pursues will be driven by how long the pandemic lasts and how severe any resurgence might be, and how the overall economy responds and how quickly it recovers, factors which are exceedingly difficult if not impossible to predict.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

California COVID-19 employer resources

The governor of California just signed new laws affecting workers compensation. These resources can help you understand and comply with the laws and what they require of employers, carriers and third-party administrators.

Current action needed: Employer notification of all COVID-positive employees

Effective immediately, all Helmsman Management Services workers compensation customers doing business in California need to notify us of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Contact us via our dedicated email box to request our  CA SB 1159 form. We will email you a form that you can use to enter and record multiple notifications at once.
  • Complete the form(s) with case details as necessary and required by law. This includes:
    • For every employee who tests positive and their places of employment, with the following limitations:
      • A “positive test” according to the law includes any test approved by the FDA for emergency use. This does not include antibody tests.
      • For the purpose of notification, a “specific place of employment” does not include an employee’s home or residence.
      • Please do not include employee names in this notification form.
    • Retroactively, for all employees who have tested positive since July 6, 2020
  • Email those forms to CACOVID19Tracking@helmsmantpa.com.
  • If you need further assistance with the form, call our California COVID-19 Customer Service Line at 888-638-3461.

 

Request form

To learn more about this new law and our measures to manage notifications and claims changes, read our new FAQ and guide:

What is SB 1159?

California Senate Bill (SB) 1159 is one of two bills the Governor of California recently signed into law that change how employers and workers compensation carriers and third-party administrators in the state handle COVID-19 cases and claims.

SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation so that first responders, health care workers and people who test positive due to an outbreak at work get support, including necessary medical care and wage replacement benefits. It does this in several ways, including defining an “injury” to an employee to include illness or death from COVID-19, and creating a “rebuttable presumption” for these groups of employees. It also requires that employers notify their insurance carriers and/or third-party administrators of employee positive COVID-19 tests in writing to help identify outbreaks at workplaces.

The other bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 685, requires timely notification to employees and local and state public health officials of COVID-19 cases at workplaces. This notification mandates that workers take necessary precautions such as seeking testing, getting medical help or complying with quarantine directives.

Together, the bills make up the governor’s “worker protection package” and supersede the Governor’s earlier executive order. The statutes take effect immediately and remain in effect through January 1, 2023.

Frequently asked questions

When does this new process take effect?

Please start using the form immediately. The form is also required retroactively for all positive tests beginning July 6, 2020. The statue specifies those retroactive notifications are due no later than  October 17, 2020.

Do I need to fill out a form for every case?

You can input multiple notifications into a single form.

If I previously used the form to notify you of a positive test for a work-related case, do I need to file a claim?

Yes, the law requires the notifications to include different information from a claim report, so both are needed.

Do I need to submit a notification via the form if I have already submitted a claim?

Yes, the law requires the notifications to include different information from a claim report, so both are needed.

Do I need to submit a notification of a positive test if the employee is not alleging that their positive test is work related?

Yes. The notification is required even if the employee’s case isn’t work-related.

The bill states for purposes of this type of reporting, the employer shall not provide any personally identifiable information. What information is needed?

The notification form includes all the required information.

How does this affect my specific claim?

We handle each claim in accordance with the facts of the case, policies in force, and relevant laws and regulations. For information on a specific claim, contact your workers compensation claims specialist.

For more information

Visit the California legislative information site to read the bills:

Download FAQs

The foregoing information is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The illustrations, instructions, and principles contained in the material are general in scope and for marketing purposes. Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards.

COVID-19 pandemic prompts numerous policyholder accommodations

Insurers recognize favorable trends and announce refunds and credits for policyholders

The unprecedented financial disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted insurance regulators and insurers to implement an array of accommodations for adversely impacted policyholders.

Some accommodations were first announced voluntarily by insurers, such as premium refunds for private passenger auto insurance (to reflect reduced miles driven during mandated stay-at-home orders), while subsequent measures were urged, or mandated, by gubernatorial executive orders and/or state insurance department directives and bulletins.

Regulators expand on refunds with requests for cancellation forbearance and free coverage

Because the impact of the pandemic has been uneven across the country, the need for accommodations, and the relief offered or mandated, has varied by state, but the most common measures have been:

  • Moratoriums on policy cancellations or nonrenewals for nonpayment of premiums and extended premium payback periods, in some cases as long as 12 months
  • Relaxing due dates for premium payments
  • Waiving late fees and penalties and mandating premium payment plans, which will avoid a lapse in coverage
  • Expanding auto coverage to allow personal vehicles to be covered when delivering food, medicine, or other essential services

Additionally, many insurance departments have urged insurers to make any and all “reasonable accommodations” for adversely impacted individuals and businesses.

Recent directives from regulators expand to include businesses

While most of the above accommodations could apply to personal or commercial insureds, some relief has been targeted to the unique needs of business insurance.  Examples include:

  • Requiring insurers to post on their websites, or to otherwise inform their commercial policyholders, of their willingness to work on a case-by-case basis to evaluate changes in risk and to provide appropriate accommodations
  • Offering flexible billing and premium payment options
  • Issuing business owner policy premium refunds or alternatively directing that when policies are audited, a credit be given if there has been a reduction in sales or payroll
  • Performing midterm policy audits and providing flexibility regarding completion of audits
  • Expanding coverage for vehicles that are currently being used for business purposes which were not being used for business purposes prior to COVID-19
  • Reducing coverage for vehicles that were previously being used for business purposes, but are not currently being used for business purposes on account of COVID-19
  • Adjusting exposures for general liability to account for factors such as reduced payroll, sales, or receipts
  • Adjusting exposures for workers compensation to account for factors such as reduced payroll
  • Automatically suspending cancellations based on nonpayment of premium for commercial lines

Many individuals and businesses have sought and received the type of accommodations outlined above since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and insurance departments continue to monitor the market closely to determine whether extensions or added measures are needed.

Individuals or businesses in need of first-time or additional relief should consult the website of their respective state insurance department to understand what accommodations are available. Businesses can also contact their third-party administrator (TPA), risk-management consultant, agent-broker, or their insurer directly to explore options for appropriate accommodations.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

Workers compensation presumption legislation

Workers compensation presumption bills are not new. Over the years, states have passed legislation that extended workers compensation coverage to firefighters who developed certain cancers (lung) and fire and police personnel who suffer heart attacks. In response to the pandemic, several states have passed legislation or used executive authority to extend workers compensation coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness. The scope and application of the legislation or executive orders are dependent on the language contained in the bills in the following areas.

Scope of employees covered – Some legislation or executive orders limit the scope of employees entitled to the COVID-19 presumption to healthcare workers and first responders, while others have broad application and include all “essential workers,” like grocery store employees, corrections officers, and postal service workers.

How the presumption works – A presumption can be conclusive or rebuttable, which would still allow an employer to challenge whether the COVID-19 infection was work-related.

What triggers coverage – Narrow proposals require that an employee have a positive test or a medical diagnosis of COVID-19, whereas broader legislation provides workers compensation coverage for employees that were only exposed to coronavirus.

Timeline for presumption – Most bills limit the application of the presumption to the timeline of a gubernatorial emergency order for COVID-19; however, a broad presumption could permanently change the state workers compensation law.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

Telemedicine goes mainstream

Now more mainstream due to coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era and level of acceptance for telemedicine and telehealth.1 The medical community, spurred by necessity and consumer demand, is increasingly embracing the inherent efficiencies and public health safety precautions that are available to practitioners and consumers of remote medicine. All 50 states have issued bulletins, executive orders, and notices urging and, in some cases, requiring insurers to accept and broaden access to telehealth programs and plans to cover the costs. Numerous states’ directives require pay parity, a longstanding deterrent, for reimbursements of healthcare services rendered via telemedicine at the same rate as in-person services.2 Regulators have also expanded telemedicine to include a much broader range of technologies for the delivery of services, including by phone, audio/video, secure text messages, email, or a direct patient portal.3

State legislatures pave the way during and likely after pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states expanded coverage and availability of telehealth services to limit spread of the disease and expand access to healthcare. In March 2020, Medicare began allowing all enrollees to use telemedicine, an option previously available only to those in remote areas or for short, specific visits. Additionally, physicians were granted reciprocity to provide telemedicine services to Medicare patients across state lines. Some states, including Missouri and Pennsylvania, also allowed physicians licensed outside the state to provide telemedicine care more easily. Idaho, Colorado, and others allowed providers to use non-HIPAA-compliant technologies in certain circumstances. Many states required insurers (VT, IA, AZ) to reimburse telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services (i.e., payment parity). Several states have also limited or reduced to zero the amount state-regulated insurers may charge in consumer cost sharing for telehealth services during the pandemic. Healthcare systems also worked to enhance access to telemedicine services by increasing physician availability and waiving copays for the duration of the pandemic.4

Necessity, in this case pandemic, is the mother of invention and progress

Since COVID-19 became a national health emergency, the landscape for telehealth has shifted dramatically and will likely continue to shift as healthcare needs increase over time. Telehealth proponents have advocated many years for the kind of approach being taken to virtual care observed currently. Relaxing originating site requirements so that patients may be treated where they are located, increasing the services covered under government programs, requiring payment parity, expanding the acceptable modalities to include the technology most convenient for care, and foregoing the in-office visit requirement for the prescribing of controlled substances are all advances telehealth advocates have been championing for decades.5

1 Telemedicine and telehealth are often used interchangeably. Telemedicine refers strictly to remote clinical services performed by licensed providers. Telehealth encompasses a broader set of activities, including educational webinars, licensing or credentialing services, or patient care meetings.

2 Telehealth, 2020. https://content.naic.org/cipr_topics/topic_telehealth.htm

3 “COVID-19 Insurance: US Insurance Regulators Require Increased Access to Telemedicine,” Clyde & Co., May 20, 2020

4 Telehealth, 2020. https://content.naic.org/cipr_topics/topic_telehealth.htm

5 Kyle Y. Faget, Telehealth in the Wake of COVID-19, 22 No.3 Journal of Health Care Compliance, P.5

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional adviser regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

Managing the impact of social inflation

New attitudes have led to a costly rise in liability claims. Get the details and see what we’re doing to help protect your interests.

The impact

industry average
The industry average general liability combined ratio was estimated at 104 percent for 2019,1 extending this streak
to six years of underwriting losses.
auto liability
The industry average auto liability combined ratio was 110 percent for 2019,2 extending losses to
the auto segment.

The why

plantiff
The plaintiffs bar
Advertising and
technology encourage
outsized verdicts.
litigation funding
Litigation funding
Outside investors are paying
claimants’ legal fees for a
piece of the potential award.
Jury's new stance
The jury’s new stance
Forty-two percent of jurors go
by what they think is fair,
not by the law.3

Our six inflation-calming strategies

Icon 1
Sharpen our risk control approach.
2
Work closely with customers and legal for the best expertise for each case.
3
Strive to improve public perception.
4
Maximize claims management with top-flight specialists, proactive strategies, and innovative analytics.
5
Emphasize pretrial prep, flagging cases we shouldn’t take to court early; going to court as ready as can be.
6
Invest in data and analytics to guide strategy, control costs, and win favorable verdicts.

Learn more about our liability claims management approach to social inflation.

We’re here to help.

Want to learn more about how you can protect your company from today’s litigious environment and the higher costs it poses?

Contact your Helmsman representative today.

1 Conning General Liability Insurance Segment Report, Mid-Year 2019; ALM Intelligence and Validity)
2 Conning forecast and analysis Q1 2020
3 https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2019/06/05/top-100-verdicts-2018-chart/

2020 workplace safety index: the top 10 causes of disabling workplace injuries

Explore our infographic to learn more about the ten most common causes of disabling workplace injuries and their costs.

The 2020 Workplace Safety Index (WSI) shows that the total cost of serious workplace injuries has exceeded $59 billion per year, or more than $1 billion per week.

The good news is, the vast majority of workplace injuries could be reduced or prevented through thoughtful, proactive risk control measures. And the first step is understanding how these accidents happen. That’s where Helmsman Management Services can help.

Created from research by Liberty Mutual Insurance, our 2020 WSI identifies the top 10 causes of serious workplace injuries — those that cause employees to miss work for at least five days. In addition, we’ve ranked them according to their direct cost to businesses, based on medical and lost-wage expenses.

The workplace safety index at a glance
Disabling workplace injuries cost businesses more than
$59 billion
per year.

Here are the facts:

$59 billion: total cost of disabling workplace injuries

$53 billion: total cost of the top 10 disabling workplace injuries
You can learn to protect your business — and your employees — by understanding how injuries happen.
Work with experienced professionals to help mitigate these risks.

The top 10 causes of workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses over $1 billion per week. Check out the top 10 causes of workplace injuries below.

The top 10 causes of disabling workplace injuries:

1. Handling objects | Cost per year $13.98B | Watch for: Those heavy boxes
2. Falls on same level | Cost per year $10.84B | Watch for: That wet floor
3. Being hit by objects | Cost per year $6.12B | Watch for: The falling object
4. Falls to lower level | Cost per year $5.71B | Watch for: That wobbly ladder
5. Awkward postures | Cost per year $4.69B | Watch for: That first step
6. Vehicles crashes | Cost per year $3.56B | Watch for: The distracted driver
7. Slip or trip without fall | Cost per year $2.06B | Watch for: Those slippery/uneven walkways
8. Repetitive motions involving microtasks | Cost per year $2.05B | Watch for: Hand-intensive work
9. Colliding with objects | Cost per year $2.0B | Watch for: That concrete pillar
10. Running equipment or machines | Cost per year $1.92B | Watch for: The moving machinery

Make sure to work with a trusted TPA to examine workplace injuries in your own business, and how you can effectively reduce those risks. Because a safer workplace isn’t just good for employees; it’s good for the bottom line.

1. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Overexertion involving outside sources” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
2. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Struck by object or equipment” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
3. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Other exertions or bodily reactions” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
4. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
5. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Struck against object or equipment” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.
6. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for “Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects” See BLS definitions manual for further detail.

Study Methodology:
The annual Workplace Safety Index is based on information from Liberty Mutual Insurance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Academy of Social Insurance. Liberty Mutual and BLS injury data are analyzed to determine which events caused employees to miss five or more days of work. The index then ranks those events by total workers compensation costs, which include medical and lost-wage payments.

To capture accurate injury cost data, each index is based on data three years prior. Accordingly, the 2020 index reflects 2017 data.

This website is general in nature, and is provided as a courtesy to you. Information is accurate to the best of Helmsman’s knowledge, but companies and individuals should not rely on it to prevent and mitigate all risks or as an explanation of coverage or benefits under an insurance policy. Consult your professional advisor regarding your particular facts and circumstance. By citing external authorities or linking to other websites, Helmsman is not endorsing them.

How telemedicine can support injured workers and add value in workers compensation

With one in 10 workers compensation claims being suited for telemedicine, learn more about how this technology can benefit injured workers in their recovery. 1

Today, many companies’ group health programs offer telemedicine as an alternative way for employees to access medical services. And in the current environment where pandemics, severe weather, and other disruptions can limit access to in-person care, this technology is becoming even more important and prevalent. In the workers compensation claims management space, telemedicine is an option for helping injured workers receive treatment so they can recover and return to work.

The benefits of telemedicine for injured workers include:

  • Convenience: injured employees can get treatment for minor injuries that do not require an in-person physical exam, such as contusions and sprains, and can also receive rehabilitation services. In addition, treatment can be available at any time, including holidays, weekends, and late nights.
  • Efficiency: with telemedicine, employees have rapid access to the care they need, from home or in the workplace, which translates to no traveling and less waiting. On average, wait times can be reduced from two days to hours with telemedicine.2
  • Easy to use:  employees can access services using familiar technology that they already know and understand, via phone, laptop, or desktop. 

If your business is considering the use of telemedicine, you and your employees can feel secure knowing that their information is protected. Telemedicine visits comply with the same high patient privacy standards as ordinary medical visits and personal information is transmitted securely.

Offering care via telemedicine is part of our approach to advocacy and reducing the anxiety employees may feel after suffering workplace injuries. Because at Helmsman Management Services, we believe that a better experience translates into better outcomes for employees and employers.

Contact Helmsman Management Services to learn more about our solutions and services and download the PDF below for information to help injured workers become more comfortable with using telemedicine.

Download PDF

1 Helmsman Management Services internal data, 2019

2 Helmsman Management Services Medical Data Analytics, 2016-2019

This document is a general description of services offered. See your contract for actual terms and conditions. No duty or undertaking is intended or assumed by Liberty Mutual Insurance by this publication, as it is informational in purpose. 

5 key practices to help manage supply chain risks

Today’s supply chains are complex and can be difficult to manage — even in the best of circumstances. So, when disrupters such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, pandemics, equipment breakdowns, and supplier delays occur, managing risks that could significantly impact your business’ supply chain becomes even more challenging.

Recent events stemming from the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus demonstrate the widespread effect disruptions can have on companies and their supply chains. According to a recent survey, 94 percent of the Fortune 1000-Opens in new window saw coronavirus supply chain disruptions. In addition, social distancing mandates caused many businesses worldwide to close or downsize -Opens in new windowtheir operations.

Whatever the cause, what remains clear is that breaks in the supply chain affect nearly all industries. Having a proactive strategy that closely manages all supply chain partnerships, as well as the company’s own operations, is critical to help keep your supply chain running smoothly.

The benefits of supply chain risk management

Ensuring the continuity of your business depends on its resilience during a major disruption and how quickly it can resume operations. Companies with an established plan on how to best mitigate supply chain disruptions will find themselves in a better position to pivot successfully when responding to specific crisis-related events. Key benefits of proactive supply chain risk management include:

  • Early detection of a potential crisis event  
  • Continuity in production and deliveries
  • Quicker response times to help minimize profit losses and maintain business operations
  • Better safeguarding of a company’s good reputation and customer following
  • Improved transparency in supplier transactions and tracking product journeys
  • Verification of secondary sourcing when delays or quality may be in question
  • A competitive boost in market share when a common risk occurs

 A more structured approach for minimizing potential supply chain disruptions

Here are five supply chain risk-management practices that could help manufacturers and distributors minimize potential supply chain disruptions:

  1. Create a formal business continuity plan.

    A business continuity plan is a system of prevention of and recovery from potential threats to a company. Simply put, a plan helps businesses minimize supply chain disruptions during a crisis by assisting them in a quicker recovery time to resume operations after a disaster, including a hurricane, fire, pandemic, or other event. Creating a business continuity plan typically involves:

    • Assessing your geographic area and operations to identify possible interruptions, including technological disruptions such as cyberattacks and data breaches
    • Establishing alternatives for business operations, such as identifying temporary facilities, backup suppliers, additional staffing, and alternative routes for shipments; and gaining access to vital equipment
    • Creating a cross-functional team to help facilitate recovery
    • Securing important data, such as customer and employee records, business contracts, and financial information
    • Establishing procedures for communicating with your employees, customers, the media, and community and government agencies
  2. Maintain relationships with supply chain partners.

  3. A healthy supply chain depends on nurturing and maintaining relationships with your supply chain partners (as well as their partners). This involves getting to know your suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and any other partners on your supply chain you work with and the role they and other parties play in your company’s network. Questions to ask about your supply chain suppliers may include:  

    • What means of safety benchmarks and specifications do they use in product design and development?
    • Do they adhere to U.S. safety codes and consensus standards? Obtain verification, especially from those partners that supply critical products or components.
    • What documentation can they provide of quality control processes to verify the function and safety of the final product?
    • Can they fulfill your operational needs to meet production expectations? Do they have business continuity plans in place?
    • How do they manage cybersecurity risks and protect intellectual property?
  4. Establish a contingency plan in key areas.

  5. In a crisis, having access to extra inventory and equipment, as well as a diversified pool of suppliers, is critical. Considerations for contingency planning should include:

    • Diversifying suppliers across geographic regions and not having to rely solely on overseas sources that could be impacted by catastrophes or political instability
    • Creating relationships with alternative supply chain partners, including suppliers, distributors, and transporters, so you have a readily available source of replacement parts, equipment, and inventory
    • Establishing a strategic spread of multiple facilities in different geographic locations to provide support to affected operations
    • Confirming that network access is secure and information is backed up regularly
  6. Put product safety and quality control at the forefront.

  7. Making product safety a business priority helps protect customers and your business against product liability lawsuits and product recalls — major disrupters to your supply chain and operations. This should include:

    • Conducting regular evaluations to qualify and select your suppliers
    • Establishing a written design review process that identifies relevant safety codes, quality specifications, and consensus standards that should be met by all supply chain partners
    • Discussing with your customers design specifications and final applications of products
    • Conducting regular quality control audits or independent product testing to ensure quality is consistent with expectations and that no safety issues are present
    • Reviewing instructions, user warnings, maintenance manuals, and other marketing, sales, and technical communications used in conjunction with each product
    • Retaining all documentation of processes and decisions throughout the product life cycle
    • Creating a checklist of all product recall procedures to allow affected inventory to be identified and removed from the supply chain quickly
  8. Work with your risk-management partners to mitigate exposures.

  9. It’s vital for your company’s risk-management, financial, and legal teams to establish formal contracts with all supply chain partners and to review your risk-management program with your insurance broker and third-party administrator regularly. Key areas to address include:

    • Reviewing details in partner contracts that establish specific terms and conditions, roles, responsibilities, and service expectations, and assigning liability appropriately
    • Defining the process for resolving known or suspected product safety risks and clarifying which parties will respond to a product defect event and in what manner
    • Verifying that all supply chain partners use contractual provisions that protect your business from negligent acts or defective supplies they provide you. Be sure to get legal review of contract language and match insurance coverage with your exposure
    • Reviewing the company’s and supply partners’ insurance programs to ensure limits are appropriate and to identify potential gaps in coverage

    Positioning your supply chain for the future

    Maintaining the delivery of essential goods and services and preventing losses in your business can be a time-consuming task. As the global supply chain widens and becomes more complex, businesses will have a stronger need for risk-management best practices to help them identify issues quickly and to ensure that the proper systems are in place to better respond and recover.

    Want to know more about how Helmsman Management Services could help protect your brand, operations, and relationships you’ve worked so hard to build?  Let’s talk.-Opens in new window



Restoring office operations

Our planning guide can be helpful as you look to reopen or expand operations. Remember to always adhere to federal, state, and local requirements, CDC guidelines, and recommendations of in-house counsel.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of exposure, we recommend that your organization appoints a manager to coordinate efforts for COVID-19 response.

 

Reopening considerations

Operations

  • Stagger the return of your associates to the office in phases rather than all at once.
  • Stagger/rotate office start times and schedules. Continue remote work where possible.
  • Follow CDC and state/local health department guidelines for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining physical distance.
  • Follow CDC guidance to educate the workforce on staying healthy and symptoms that would warrant that they don’t go into the office.
  • Post signs notifying customers not to enter if they feel sick.
  • Increase availability of hand sanitizer and wipes for customer use.
  • When re-opening buildings, work with maintenance to assess the HVAC system, change air filters, and if possible, increase the air exchange.
  • Clean common-use spaces frequently, and thoroughly clean office spaces nightly.
  • Consider limiting visitors to your office/location to essential-only or require that visitors make an appointment.
  • Analyze and modify floorplans, furniture, workstations, and lobby seating for proper physical distancing.
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting for amenities that are high-contact, such as coffee makers, refrigerators, microwaves, vending machines, elevator buttons, etc.
  • Restrict or modify policies and procedures for live meetings and use of conference rooms.
  • Close off water fountains and encourage bottled water use.

Employee safety

  • Equip staff with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) based on job tasks and follow state and local public health recommendations regarding the use of face coverings.
  • Ensure staff is properly trained on changes for cleaning protocols.
  • Post reminder signage in employee areas for proper hygienic practices, including hand washing.
  • Allow voluntary work from home.
  • Implement social distancing in break rooms, conference rooms, and other gathering places.
  • Reconfigure workstations so employees do not face each other. Utilize partitions for separation.
  • Discontinue open food sharing (pizza, donuts, candy, cookies, etc.), including food brought from home to share.
  • Educate staff and provide relevant resources and guidance.
  • Analyze, restrict, and modify employee business travel, especially air travel.

Conclusion

It is important to communicate to employees about the steps you are taking to help keep them safe, and acknowledge the importance of the work they are doing.

Capture and document your programs and efforts to keep everyone safe for future reference.

Download PDF

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

Resuming hotel and resort operations

Our planning guide can be helpful as you look to reopen or expand operations. Remember to always adhere to federal, state, and local requirements, CDC guidelines, and recommendations of in-house counsel.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of exposure, we recommend that your organization appoints a manager to coordinate efforts for COVID-19 response.

 

Reopening considerations

Operations

  • Follow CDC, state, and local public health department guidelines for cleaning, disinfecting, and guidance on maintaining physical distance.
  • Monitor capacity limits in accordance with current state and local public health regulations for building occupancy.
  • Post signs notifying customers of the following:
  • Stagger occupied rooms to allow for increased distancing between guests.
  • When re-opening buildings, work with maintenance to assess the operation of the HVAC and water systems, change air filters, and flush water systems.
  • Identify, address, and modify areas where people tend to congregate.
  • Post signs to limit elevator capacity, reminding guests of social distancing. Encourage the use of stairs and consider utilizing more rooms on lower floors.
  • Analyze and modify operations as needed, for example:
    • Eliminate self-service beverage stations.
    • Eliminate self-service buffet lines.
    • Promote online check out.
    • Utilize virtual guest directory vs. in-room hard copy directories. Remove in-room magazines and menus.

Employee safety

  • Follow CDC guidelines for approved cleaning products and appropriate cleaning and disinfecting techniques.
  • Increase staff or consider utilizing third-party cleaning vendors to assist your staff with reopening, as well as ongoing increased cleaning demands.
  • Equip staff with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) based on job tasks and follow state and local public health recommendations on the use of face coverings. Ensure housekeeping staff is trained on changes in increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Address employee wellness by providing frequent breaks and open communication channels.
  • Follow CDC and state guidelines reminding employees who feel sick to stay home.

Guest safety

  • Provide hand sanitizer at check-in counters.
  • Separate tables and seating in common areas to at least six feet apart.
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting frequency in high-touch areas, such as restrooms, check-in counters, common areas, elevators, handrails, etc.
  • Post guidelines and instructions to help enforce physical distancing and proper hygiene practices for hand washing.
  • Clean/sanitize/disinfect common high touch items in guest rooms (remote control, thermostat, door handles, chairs, luggage racks, irons, hair dryers, etc.).
  • Encourage customers to use touchless payment options when available.

Pools, spas and fitness areas

  • Re-evaluate the necessity of re-opening the pool, spa, fitness areas, and other amenities.
  • Consider making amenity use by reservation only to control the number of users, and to allow time for cleaning and disinfecting between use.
  • Close water fountains and encourage bottled water use.
  • Frequently clean all equipment with approved disinfecting solution, paying extra attention to high-touch areas (weights, treadmill interfaces, handrails, etc.).
  • Consider using a “ready to clean” sign after equipment is used by guests to alert staff to clean and disinfect equipment in a timely manner.
  • Frequently clean spaces around the pool and fitness areas (changing rooms, showers, toilets, pool chairs/tables, and handrails).
  • Work with your local tourism board to develop destination standards.

Conclusion

Communicate to employees and guests about the steps you are taking to help keep them safe.

Capturing and documenting your programs and efforts for future reference.

Download PDF

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

Resuming retail operations

Our planning guide can be helpful as you look to reopen or expand operations. Remember to always adhere to federal, state, and local requirements, CDC guidelines, and recommendations of in-house counsel.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of exposure, we recommend that your organization appoints a manager to coordinate efforts for COVID-19 response.

Reopening considerations

Operations

  • Follow CDC, state, and local health department guidelines for cleaning, disinfecting, and guidance on maintaining physical distance.
  • Follow CDC guidance to educate the workforce on staying healthy. Learn about the symptoms that would warrant staying home if sick.
  • Keep websites and social media up to date with information including the right to refuse service to anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and those who are not following appropriate social distancing guidelines.
  • Reinforce communications by posting signs notifying customers of the following:
    • Not to enter if they feel sick
    • Etiquette surrounding coughing and sneezing
    • Proper hand-washing hygiene
    • Use of face coverings in accordance with local public health recommendations
  • When re-opening buildings, work with maintenance to assess the HVAC system, change air filters, and if possible, increase the air exchange.
  • Consider limiting hours of operation and implementing separate operating hours for elderly and other vulnerable customers.
  • Monitor capacity limits of your operation in accordance with current state and local regulations for building occupancy.
  • Organize an effective queuing approach to accommodate physical distancing for customers at checkout counters and store entrances.
  • Frequently clean commonly used spaces (shopping carts, credit card machines, door handles, restrooms, changing rooms, etc.).
  • Consider customer store routing by making narrow aisles one-way only.
  • Plan and stagger stocking and deliveries to prevent customer contact and overcrowding of the facility.
  • Limit on-site vendors to essential personnel only.
  • Establish contactless signatures for deliveries.
  • Analyze and modify your store return policy to allow for proper cleaning and disinfecting of products.

Staff safety

  • Follow the CDC guidelines for approved cleaning products and appropriate cleaning and disinfecting techniques.
  • Equip staff with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) based on job tasks and follow state and local public health recommendations regarding the use of face coverings. Ensure maintenance is properly trained on changes to cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Address employee health and wellness by fielding questions and concerns, providing frequent breaks, and opening communication channels.
  • Follow the CDC and state guidelines reminding associates who feel sick to stay home.
  • Post signage in employee areas with reminders about proper hygienic practices and hand washing.
  • Implement social distancing in break rooms, meetings, and other gathering places.
  • When handling paper currency and coins:
    • Do not touch face afterward.
    • Require cash to be placed directly on counter.
  • Communicate with your workforce, offering opportunities for feedback.

Customer safety

  • Post signs at entrances notifying customers not to enter if they feel sick.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for customer use.
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting frequency in high-touch areas, such as restrooms, changing rooms, checkout counters, elevators, and escalators, etc.
  • Place marks on floors to encourage physical distancing.
  • Encourage customers to use touchless payment options when available.
  • Wipe counter between each customer at checkout stations.

Conclusion

It is important to communicate to employees and customers about the steps you are taking to help keep them safe, and acknowledge the importance of the work the employees are doing.

Capture and document your programs and efforts to keep everyone safe for future reference.

Download PDF

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

Restarting operations in the restaurant industry

Our planning guide can be helpful as you look to reopen or expand operations. Remember to always adhere to federal, state, and local requirements, CDC guidelines, and recommendations of in-house counsel.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of exposure, we recommend that your organization appoints a manager to coordinate efforts for COVID-19 response.

Reopening considerations

Operations

  • Follow CDC, state, and local health department guidelines for cleaning, disinfecting, and guidance on maintaining physical distance.
  • Follow CDC guidance to educate the workforce on staying healthy. Learn about the symptoms that would warrant staying home if sick.
  • Keep websites and social media up to date with information including the right to refuse service to anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and those who are not following appropriate social distancing guidelines.
  • Reinforce communications by posting signs notifying customers of the following:
    • Not to enter if they feel sick
    • Etiquette surrounding coughing and sneezing
    • Proper hand-washing hygiene
    • Use of face coverings in accordance with local public health recommendations
  • When re-opening buildings, work with maintenance to assess the HVAC system, change air filters, and if possible, increase the air exchange.
  • Consider limiting hours of operation and implementing separate operating hours for elderly and other vulnerable customers.
  • Monitor capacity limits of your operation in accordance with current state and local regulations for building occupancy.
  • Organize an effective queuing approach to accommodate physical distancing for customers at checkout counters and store entrances.
  • Frequently clean commonly used spaces (shopping carts, credit card machines, door handles, restrooms, changing rooms, etc.).
  • Consider customer store routing by making narrow aisles one-way only.
  • Plan and stagger stocking and deliveries to prevent customer contact and overcrowding of the facility.
  • Limit on-site vendors to essential personnel only.
  • Establish contactless signatures for deliveries.
  • Analyze and modify your store return policy to allow for proper cleaning and disinfecting of products.

Staff safety

  • Follow the CDC guidelines for approved cleaning products and appropriate cleaning and disinfecting techniques.
  • Equip staff with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) based on job tasks and follow state and local public health recommendations regarding the use of face coverings. Ensure maintenance is properly trained on changes to cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Address employee health and wellness by fielding questions and concerns, providing frequent breaks, and opening communication channels.
  • Follow the CDC and state guidelines reminding associates who feel sick to stay home.
  • Post signage in employee areas with reminders about proper hygienic practices and hand washing.
  • Implement social distancing in break rooms, meetings, and other gathering places.
  • When handling paper currency and coins:
    • Do not touch face afterward.
    • Require cash to be placed directly on counter.
  • Communicate with your workforce, offering opportunities for feedback.

Customer safety

  • Post signs at entrances notifying customers not to enter if they feel sick.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for customer use.
  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting frequency in high-touch areas, such as restrooms, changing rooms, checkout counters, elevators, and escalators, etc.
  • Place marks on floors to encourage physical distancing.
  • Encourage customers to use touchless payment options when available.
  • Wipe counter between each customer at checkout stations.

Conclusion

It is important to communicate to employees and customers about the steps you are taking to help keep them safe, and acknowledge the importance of the work the employees are doing.

Capture and document your programs and efforts to keep everyone safe for future reference.

Download PDF

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

Eight areas of focus for restoring business operations

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is expected to remain a public health threat.  Community containment has helped to slow the spread of this disease throughout the country, and we will need to continue to focus on these efforts.   

As parts of our country slowly reinstates parts of the workforce, critical strategies need to be considered in anticipation of returning to business operations. It is important to stay connected with the CDC – COVID-19 Guidance-Opens in new window as well as guidances from state and municipal Departments of Health.

  1. Health and well-being of your workforce

  2. Recognize that the stress of the pandemic will impact people differently. This is the time to be proactive and provide support through employee assistance programs and to remain steadfast with management communication and interaction with the workforce.

    Collaborate with legal counsel and Human Resource departments on policies for time off, closures, and medical and mental health benefits. With continued school and day care closures it may be difficult for many to return to work outside of their home.

  3. Help reduce the spread of the virus

  4. Continue to monitor CDC guidance-Opens in new window to educate your workforce on how to keep themselves healthy, and to identify early symptoms of COVID-19.  Review this material at team meetings, and post prominently around the workplace. Consider communicating these important actions:

    • Staying home if you are sick (cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, new loss of taste or smell).
    • Wear a face covering over your mouth and nose if you are around others, particularly if you are unable to maintain social distancing
    • Frequent handwashing, scrubbing all areas of the hands and wrist, use of hand sanitizers and avoiding contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
    • Retain recommended social distancing of at least 6 feet; install barrier guards, eliminate open food and drink distribution.
    • Avoid large gatherings including office meetings, and limit travel
    • Phase in and stagger shifts to reduce the number of workers, continue work from home options where possible.
    • Implement symptom screening for workers and visitors focusing on the CDC criteria It is critical that such practices be discussed with legal counsel, as the information obtained may have implications on employment practices.
    • Develop consistent human resource practices regarding returning workers back to the operation if they have been ill.
  5. Facilities

  6. Clean and facilities prior to reopening.  Increase cleaning throughout the work shift, paying additional attention to high-touch workspaces such as door handles, elevator floor and call buttons, shared work areas/desks, handrails, restrooms, computer equipment, as well as powered industrial equipment controls and tools.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of Registered List N: Disinfectants for Use against SARS-CoV-2-Opens in new window based on known and proven effectiveness with other similar viruses.

  7. Business relationships

  8. Verify your supplier network of materials and services to be certain that renewed demands can be met with the same level of quality and sustainability.

    Review transactional data, contractual agreements and timelines.  Work with legal counsel to verify contractual commitments and risk transfer before reopening.

  9. Operations restoration

  10. Contact local law enforcement, public health and public safety authorities about your intent and timeline of reopening and obtain inspection verification from authorities that may be needed.  Review lease agreements and other contractual obligations.

    Verify that building security and fire protection features are fully operational and that utility service agreements can be renewed without gaps. Identify changes in neighborhood dynamics that may pose an additional risk to your business or property (e.g., traffic patterns, yard storage and security, lighting, etc.).

  11. Redeploying idle equipment

  12. Examine idle and operational equipment. Implement a phase-in approach to recommission key machines and processes. Test and verify critical functions for quality product output and safeguards to help protect workers.

  13. HVAC system

  14. If the HVAC system has been shut off or minimized for several weeks, consider steps to normalize the building’s ventilation.  This should include an increase of the introduction of outdoor, fresh air into the HVAC system, improvements in air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest level compatible with the filter rack, and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass. Keep the building’s HVAC system running longer hours, if possible 24/7, to enhance dilution ventilation and air filtration capabilities.

    If the system does not allow for filtration levels of MERV-13 or better, consider temporarily supplementing the system with portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters.

  15. Building Water Systems

  16. If the facility has sat dormant for several weeks, building maintenance should implement a flush of the hot and cold-water delivery system by conducting a high temperature or chlorination disinfection.  This procedure should be addressed in your facility’s water management program.   If your facility does not have a water management program, consult the CDC for guidance.

    After disinfection, a water system flush should be completed by opening all point of use devices (i.e. faucets, nozzles, water fountains (bubblers), etc.) and flushing water through all branch lines, valves, storage tanks (both hot and cold-water tanks), other reservoirs, etc. for all hot and cold-water delivery systems in the building. 

    If the facility uses cartridge filters (i.e. activated carbon granules or carbon block, sediment filters, etc.) for point of use filtration or for whole building filtration, the filter cartridges should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommended filter type and model.  During the period of prolonged stagnation, bacteria may have amplified on the surface of the filter media.

    For HVAC systems that utilize cooling towers, the water in the cooling tower basin or storage tank should be recirculated at regular intervals using a recirculation pump on a timer to prevent stagnation.  Alternatively, the entire system should be drained and cleaned per the manufacturer’s cleaning procedures.  After thorough cleaning, follow all written start-up procedures to place the HVAC and cooling tower system back in service.

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification. This document provides a general description of this program and/or service. Insurance is underwritten by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company or its affiliates or subsidiaries. 

 

Download PDF

Restoring operations in manufacturing

Restarting your manufacturing business may present unique challenges. Our planning guide can help you as you work on your plan. Here are some areas to consider:

 

 

Crisis management reopening preparations

  • Retain documentation and critique the process used to temporarily close and what was undertaken to reopen. This kind of analysis, perhaps a first of its kind for you, may need to be redeployed at a moment’s notice depending on the potential resurgence of this outbreak. A threat assessment of your vulnerabilities of all your operations will be a vital component to this process. What is the new ‘normal’?
  • Prepare a succession plan for critical staff & officers, where special replacements are needed to continue work.
  • Consult with association members to share best practices with questions related to business reopening.
  • Verify current permits and licenses to re-open and restart, based on local or state ordinances and mandates during the time your operations have been shut-down.

Establishing customer and supply chain commitments

  • Consider realignment of your current supply chain where resource provisions can still be met. Take a closer look at your global network of suppliers, both domestic and foreign. Look at how you determine who your suppliers are and where previous commitments can still meet expectations on all sides, including provision of like product or service. Clear any changes through your Quality Assurance and Risk Management functions.
  • Explore where past contractual obligations may continue undisrupted and those that need to be reassessed for gaps in fabrication, design, and/or technical support. Use legal counsel to oversee risk transfer provisions reflected in contractual expectations that can be promptly deployed should a supplier defect be later discovered.
  • Restoring supplier specs will demand detailed scrutiny on your product quality, influenced by those supplied materials. This also directly affects your product liability risk when substandard parts are used.
  • Verify where customer specifications call out machines and materials to use, that may include changes within your supply inventory. In some cases, this may involve some changes with imposed health risk to your workforce with changes in chemical makeup, or overall job safety risks to address before resuming production.

Commissioning machines, equipment and processes

  • Can old equipment still fulfill customer expectations? US manufacturers can expect a resurgence in automation and robotics, perhaps at an even greater rate previously forecasted. With global supply fulfillment in question, many US manufacturers are re-shoring their processes in anticipation of quicker turnaround time, reduced expenses (e.g., shipping time, tariffs and other fees) and compromised product quality from the impact of a global workforce recovering from the latent impact of the outbreak.
  • Assure a complete follow-through of residual power controls of all forms, including fluid sources, in machines, building support and process piping systems. Examine any effect that idle time has helped deteriorate conditions and performance, such as corrosion, seal damage, leaks or ruptures, etc. This also includes verification that machine safety performance has been verified in full before restoring to full production by revisiting your risk assessments that detail safeguarding systems in use.
  • Restarting your processes can present new and unique operational risk to your workers. This could be the first time many of your current workers have restarted your equipment from a dormant state and they may not be aware of all the hazards that could be present. Carefully prepare and follow restart procedures for idled equipment; use the equipment manufacturers guidance, if available.
  • Do your critically skilled workers need upgrades to address changes in product line changes or customer demands? Re-visit skills needed to setup, maintain, and run critical tasks of those workers you recall for reopening. If you are exploring more automation or a significantly different process or customer contracts, you’ll need to specify job skills using your HR department to help fill gaps.
  • Revisit your hazardous energy control plan to assure it is fluently understood and practiced in both anticipated maintenance functions. Be sure to revisit alternative measures when power may be necessary to clear jams, make adjustments, or perform other tasks not possible without some form of controlled power.
  • Be certain to implement a sustainable workplace cleaning and disinfection process based on the needs of your operations; at a minimum, clean after each shift concludes BEFORE operations begin on the next. This may be a service that is more effectively and consistently done by a contracted service provider who specializes in that work. Continue to follow CDC and local guidance affecting cleaning protocol and how it complies.
  • If contractual obligations and production demands have changed, reexamine changes in applicable consensus standards affecting product safety within necessary design improvements or fabrication processes.

Workforce preparedness and communication

  • Be certain to conduct daily operations within CDC and OSHA guidance for workplace safety and health.
  • Carefully consider and address the needs and concerns of your returning workforce. Expand the opportunities for workers to have input on problems and concerns.
  • Clearly communicate the plan to ensure their health and safety including social distancing precautions, personal protective equipment, if applicable, cleaning, disinfecting, hand washing expectations/ procedures.
  • Consider that worker stamina may have been affected by the layoff and transition periods may be needed such as providing opportunities to re-acclimate to highly repetitive physically demanding tasks.
  • Shift work sleep patterns may have been disrupted during downtime – carefully plan for restarting of shift work.
  • Use pre-shift safety meetings to frequently communicate updates and respond to concerns.

IIoT security

  • Using a cross-functional team of high-level workers, carefully examine the move of secured data access from the home work environment returning to company sites, accounting for all users and equipment (hardware and software) and any transactional data and highly sensitive information.
  • Appoint a key functional role who is responsible for verifying data acquisition and security in place before production processes are re-commissioned. This likely will involve a strategic risk assessment with your team to identify security gaps in data transmission so that startup can begin in a safe manner.  

Building condition and functional capability

  • Assess changes in neighborhood dynamics that may pose a threat to your business or property over the time your business has been closed (e.g., traffic patterns, yard storage and security, lighting, etc.).
  • Verify building security and fire protection features are fully operational and service agreements can be renewed without gaps. Obtain inspections from authorities that conditions are favorable for opening.
  • Re-examine life safety provisions to verify safe and clear egress and unobstructed exit paths at any point in your building have not been compromised in this downtime. Note that your exit routes will now need to account for social distancing minimum spacing.
  • Assess the physical condition of your building and outside storage, lots, etc.
  • Assure proper working order of critical services preservation (HVAC, fire suppression, CO detection, life safety, alarms, etc.)
  • If you intend to provide onsite food services of any kind, you’ll need supplies and safe means of prep and storage for short and long-term sustenance.

Additional resources:

Download PDF

 

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

COVID-19: Manufacturing and repurposed operations

Many manufacturers are changing operations to respond to the needs of this pandemic.

Manufacturers are a crucial part of helping healthcare workers do their jobs safely. While answering the call to produce masks, ventilators, and other COVID-19-related items may be the right business decision for your company, it’s no small feat to overhaul your operation.

Undertaking material changes in operations to produce critical resources and other needed supplies can create new or unexpected exposures.

We’re here to help you think through the potential impacts of repurposing your business operations. The situation is changing by the minute, and we can help answer your questions and give guidance to help reduce the risks of transition.

Review our guide to help with transitioning your operation.

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Construction site safety during shutdown and reopening

Today’s changing business environment amidst COVID-19 activity has led to unplanned construction site closures, and now planned re-openings. Shutting down mid-project is not easy and can create unique safety risks that need to be addressed before work fully stops. What’s more, reopening a site carries a slew of other considerations, especially in an environment with new and often changing federal, local, and state guidelines to help limit the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing protocols and new handwashing and site cleaning recommendations.

Here we detail some guidelines to help support the safe reopening and potential future closure of job sites, in light of uncertainty around COVID-19 and its impact on construction over the coming weeks and months.


Returning to work on a suspended construction site
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted construction sites across the country, and many have been placed on hold.  Contactors returning to work on a suspended construction site may face unique hazards. 

Workforce and Communication: Address the needs of your workers.  Your communication style and content could have a direct impact on the successful completion of the project.  During the pre-planning process consider the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) / National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended practices that you will bring forward, as well as addressing mental health issues.

Fall protection: Fall protection systems may need to be inspected to ensure they will work effectively.

  • Are floor hole covers in good condition and properly labeled?
  • Are personal fall arrest anchorage points still acceptable?
  • Should suspended scaffolding be re-inspected?

Public safety: Protecting the public from injury during construction is always a primary concern of any project team.  During your planning and project restart preparation, inspect and remove any loose or damaged objects from the project that could fall/fly and injure the public, and reestablish perimeter protection, traffic control, covered walkways and lighting.

Temporary Structures and Infra-structure: Temporary structures that were left in place will need to be inspected prior to starting up the project.  Scaffolds, stair towers and personnel hoists associated with the project should be inspected prior to use. Shoring or re-shoring should be inspected per the shoring engineers’ recommendations and drawings.

Structural Integrity: It is important to inspect the structure to see if any degradation has occurred.  Incomplete or unfinished structures should be evaluated prior to restart (such as structural steel, precast, duct runs, and pan decking systems).

Property Protection: Protecting the structure under construction remains a priority, and security and fire protection will need to be reviewed.

  • Does the project location still require the use of on-site security?
  • Will fire prevention systems such as sprinklers, standpipes and alarm systems need to be inspected prior to project restart?

Mold and OD prevention: Rodents and insects may have infiltrated the site. Water may have impacted the structure. The damage they may have caused will need to be addressed before startup.  Investigate the following:

  • Has any insect or rodent damage occurred? How will it be addressed?
  • How will HVAC systems be restarted?

Major Equipment: The safe restart of major equipment such as cranes is essential to a project.  Consider the following:

  • How will cranes be restarted safely?
  • Will your rigging be inspected prior to use?

Project Records: Properly maintaining your project records could have a direct impact on your ability get back on track and schedule.  Consider:

  • Video documenting the site’s condition prior to startup
  • Re-inventory all material and equipment

Environmental Risks: Environmental risks may have changed on a suspended site since shutdown. Be sure to assess the following:

  • Possible mold growth and indoor air quality
  • Leaks from previously installed piping
  • Damage from vandalism and valves, tanks, etc.
  • Dewatering contaminated rain water
  • Unmanaged site runoff

Contingency Plan: Lastly it is important to consider that the pandemic may require additional work suspension or site shutdown on a long term project.  Consider reviewing your business continuity plan in anticipation of future disruptions.

Download PDF
Restart guide

Safe worksite closure considerations
To help protect your workers, the public, and your business, consider creating a shutdown plan focusing on the following key areas:

  • Public safety: remove or secure all loose materials, tools, and equipment on open floors and roofs.
  • Property protection: make sure the building envelope is watertight. If there is a need for additional protection, such as temporary drains, water diversions, etc., install them prior to site shutdown.
  • Temporary structures: remove or secure any exterior scaffolds.
  • Inclement weather conditions: establish a contingency plan addressing severe weather(hail/wind/flood) throughout the shutdown.
  • Record retention: secure and maintain all contract documents, insurance records, and project logs in a safe, accessible location offsite.

 


Partial shutdown guidance
If you are shifting to a partial shutdown with fewer on-site workers, consider these guidelines:

  • If workers will be alone on the jobsite, make sure they are able to reach help in the event of an accident.
  • Make sure the job can be done safely with limited workers on-site. Evaluate specific tasks, as well as the use of tools and equipment.
  • Some job tasks require more than one person on-site. If this is the case, refer to local regulations on lone workers.

For additional guidance, download our construction site shutdown guide.

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

COVID-19 FAQs and tips for businesses

Our risk control team is here to help you mitigate operational risks your business may be facing.

As we continue to adapt to the changing landscape of COVID-19, it’s important to be thoughtful on how to protect your staff and visitors and to document the steps you take to demonstrate your observance of the requirements of the CDC, State and Local health authorities. Helmsman’s risk control team is here to help you mitigate operational risks your business may be facing.

(Updated 6/26/20)

Operational/Cleaning & Disinfecting

Q1: What are the key considerations for resuming and maintaining healthy business operations?

A1: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several strategies and recommendations for employers responding to COVID-19, including those seeking to resume normal or phased business operations:

  • Conducting daily health checks
  • Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
  • Encouraging employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
  • Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
  • Following enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices
  • Improving the building ventilation system

The CDC Toolkit provides a table outlining the engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that employers may use to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace

Our website contains many additional reopening resources including  general considerations and industry specific guidance. 

 

Q2: How do I clean and disinfect my workplace?

A2: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 can be killed if you use the right products and apply these disinfectants according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products that can be used against COVID-19, including ready-to-use sprays, concentrates, and wipes. Each product has been shown to be effective against viruses that are harder to kill than viruses with a similar cell structure to the one that causes COVID-19.

This document provides a general framework for cleaning and disinfection practices. The framework is based on doing the following:

  1. Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.  Cleaning a surface prior to applying a disinfectant is important because organic matter on the surface can react with the disinfectant and reduce its effectiveness.
  2. Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk.  Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important, as is following product instructions on how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface.
  3. When EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix chlorine bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products which may contain ammonia together. This chemical mixture can create toxic gases called chloramines that are very dangerous to inhale. Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children. Read EPA’s infographic on how to use these disinfectant products safely and effectively.

Find additional information at CDC’s website on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility  and guidance for cleaning and disinfecting in the Reopening Decision Tool  Continue to check the CDC website for more detailed reopening guidance as it is published.

 

Q3: How long is the SARS-CoV-2 virus stable on surfaces?

A3: Currently, there is not a definitive answer to this question regarding transmissibility of the virus from surface contamination to humans.  However, a March 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) did a comparison of the viability of the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) to SARS-CoV-1.  The study found SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

See the NEJM Article on Stability of COVID-19 – NIH Release for additional details on this NEJM study.

The findings affirm the guidance from public health professionals to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Use face coverings of the nose and mouth when out in public.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Maintain physical distancing of 6 feet or more from others.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water and hand sanitizer of at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using disinfectants.

Work Practices

Q4: Should my workplace screen employees and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms (such as temperature checks) before they enter my worksite?

A4: Employers should check with individual State and Local Public Health resources to determine if there are jurisdictional requirements by location or occupation that would require screening. 

Most importantly employees and visitors should be reminded if they are ill and experiencing symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, chills, fever (oral reading of 100.4 F or greater) or they are positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 they should not enter the workplace.  Many individuals do not exhibit symptoms and those who do may not show symptoms for 2–14 days after exposure.  

If temperature monitoring is implemented, employers must protect the employee conducting the temperature screening. The most protective methods incorporate physical barriers to eliminate or minimize the screener’s exposures due to close contact with a person who may have symptoms during screening and personal protective equipment such as a gown, gloves, face shield, handwashing and sanitizers.  The CDC offers several considerations for personal protection of screeners under the heading “Reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.”

Choosing to implement screening measures should be discussed with legal counsel and human resources to determine how the information will be obtained, who will be reviewing the information, and how will it be used. Any medical information obtained on an employee should be maintained separate from personnel records.

Q5. What guidance is available on thermal scanning systems for measuring body temperature?

A5: Businesses are looking to conduct temperature screening on a wide-scale basis with the use of thermal scanning devices. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidance and policy recommendations to help expand the availability of telethermographic systems used for body temperature measurements for triage use during the COVID-19 emergency but has stated these devices should not be used in diagnosis.

When developing health checks in the workplace, it is important to remember that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 2 – 14 days after exposure to the virus (pre-symptomatic), and in some cases the symptoms can be mild, or we are learning that about 35% of the population does not show symptoms at all (asymptomatic).  Many employers are considering screening for the presence of fever or elevated body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above.  But fever is not present in every case, and symptoms of COVID-19 extend beyond fever, and should be part of an overall symptoms screen including, but not limited to, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, chills, new loss of taste or smell or exposure to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 by the worker or anyone in their household.  Most importantly, policies and procedures need to be developed ahead of time to determine how they will handle responses. 

Q6: What is the appropriate course of action if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

A6: In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. But you should close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:

  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for anyone entering the area from being exposed to respiratory droplets.
  • During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows, if possible, to increase air circulation in these areas.

Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations:

  • Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
  • To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
  • Always wear gloves and gowns appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting.
  • You may need to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the setting and disinfectant product you are using.

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, employers should determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take additional precautions:

Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider and state or local health department.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain the individual’s confidentiality.

Employers are encouraged to reach out to the State/Local Health departments for additional guidance and concerns and for any jurisdictional requirements.

Q7: When should an employee in a non-healthcare occupation who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 return to work?

A7: Employees who display the symptoms associated with COVID-19 should continue to follow the CDC advice labeled “Steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick.”

Both employers and employees should review and follow the most current CDC guidance on when to discontinue home isolation and use that guidance, along with any state or local health department requirements, to determine that is safe for the employee to return to work.  

Q8: What is contact tracing?

A8: Contact tracing is an effective and specialized public health disease control strategy that involves investigating people with confirmed or suspected cases and those they have been in contact with during the time that they may have been infectious.  The intent is to interrupt disease transmission—typically by asking people with confirmed cases to isolate and those they had contact with to quarantine at home voluntarily. Contact tracing is a key strategy to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.  Contact tracing is a specialized skill and relies on key concepts:

  • Trace and monitor contacts of infected people. Notify them of their exposure.
  • Support the quarantine of contacts. Help ensure the safe, sustainable and effective quarantine of contacts to prevent additional transmission.

State & Local public health authorities might connect with employers and business as part of their contact tracing efforts to curb community-based transmission.

Face Coverings and Respirators

Q9: What is a face covering and how do I use and care for my cloth face covering?

A9: Cloth face coverings are not designed for use as particulate respirators and do not provide as much respiratory protection as an N95 respirator.

Face coverings provide barrier protection against droplets, including large respiratory particles that are exhaled from the wearer, from becoming airborne. Cloth face coverings don’t protect the wearer from airborne particulate or aerosols containing viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, shed by other people.

The CDC recommends that everyone wear cloth face coverings when leaving their homes, regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19.  There is evidence that people can spread the disease even if they do not have any symptoms.

See this important information from CDC about cloth face coverings, including tips on caring for cloth coverings.

Q10: What impact does a face covering have on heat stress? 

A10:  Heat stress can occur when workers are exposed to heat, regardless of the source, and/or high humidity in their environment. Heat related illnesses may impact all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction, landscaping and those working indoors around hot processes, such as foundries.  As a defense against heat stress, our bodies naturally cool by radiating heat from the entire surface area of the skin, and through sweating and evaporation of the sweat from the skin. A face covering does not adversely impact your body’s normal process of allowing heat to escape via thermal radiation because the face covering is over a small area of the skin.  Inside the microclimate of the face covering, the wearer’s breath is exhaled, and this air is both warm and moist.  This warm, humid air in the microclimate inside a face covering may cause the wearer to perceive that they are warmer than normal in their work environment.

In May 2005, a National Institute of Health (NIH) study investigated the effects of wearing N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) and surgical facemasks on heart rate and thermal stress and investigated the wearer’s perceptions while wearing these devices.  Research determined that N95 and surgical facemasks induce significantly different temperature and humidity in the microclimates of the facemasks, which have profound influences on heart rate and thermal stress and the wearer’s subjective perception of discomfort.  Surgical facemasks were rated significantly lower for perception of humidity, heat, breath resistance and overall discomfort compared to N95 FFRs.

The study also concluded that the surgical facemasks provided significantly higher moisture permeability and air permeability and these facemasks were thinner than the N95 FFRs, indicating that surgical facemasks should be more breathable and less humid and hot. The subjects’ perception of breathing resistance and discomfort was reportedly better when wearing the surgical masks.

Cloth face coverings may be constructed of different types and weights of fabric.  The CDC recommends constructing cloth face coverings of natural fibers such as cotton, ideally two-ply. A higher thread count fabric, ideally 160 or more, provides increased filtration. The fabric type and its density (thread count) may impact both breathing resistance and heat/humidity build up in the microclimate on the interior of the face covering along with the filtration efficiency of the face covering.  The American Chemical Society (ACS) published a study that examined the Aerosol Filtration Efficiency of Common Fabrics Used in Respiratory Cloth Masks

Selection of cloth face coverings constructed of light weight; breathable fabric may be preferred for workers in hot, humid environments.  Alternatively, surgical type masks may be an option for face coverings in these environments.

Q11: If I cannot purchase NIOSH-Approved N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs) in the marketplace, how do I select a temporary replacement FFR for use in my workplace?

A11: If workers are completing tasks that require them to wear N95 FFRs and the make and model they are assigned to wear cannot be sourced in the marketplace, an employer has the option to seek a similar substitute for the NIOSH-approved FFRs from imported sources or provide the workers with a higher grade of respiratory protection (i.e. half-face elastomeric filtering facepiece respirator with particulate filter cartridges, powered air purifying respirator, etc.).

The CDC and FDA have determined that respirators that meet the regulatory requirements of the countries discussed in the FDA’s FAQs on the Emergency Use Authorizations for Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators may be appropriate to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, buyers should be aware of the factors to Consider When Planning to Purchase Respirators from Another Country.

Additionally, there are numerous counterfeit FFRs being sold in the marketplace.  The FDA has assembled a list of authorized respirators and a list of counterfeit respirators to assist users with identification of FFRs that are manufactured in accordance with imported guidelines and those that should not be used in the workplace.

If you change the make and model of FFR assigned to an employee, the assigned respirator must be qualitatively or quantitatively fit tested to verify that the respirator seals and fits properly against the worker’s face.

Q12:  What does an employer have to do if issuing Filtering Facepiece Respirators?

A12: The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shortage in the global marketplace for N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs).  If a process or task requires that a worker wear N95 FFRs and the make and model of FFR is not currently available, employers may be purchasing alternative respirators and during the pandemic may be using FFRs manufactured according to other country’s design specifications.

OSHA has temporarily exercised its enforcement discretion concerning supply shortages of disposable filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), including as it relates to their extended use or reuse, use beyond their manufacturer’s recommended shelf life, use of equipment from certain other countries and jurisdictions, and decontamination.

OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance for N95 respiratory protection fit testing requirements in the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134), as long as employers have made good-faith efforts to comply with the requirements of the standard and to follow the steps outlined in the March 14, 2020 Temporary Enforcement Guidance for annual fit-testing of N95 FFRs in healthcare, and April 8, 2020 Expanded Temporary Enforcement Guidance on respiratory protection fit-testing for N95 FFRs in all industries , memoranda (as applicable to their industry).  Ideally, an employer should continue respirator fit testing when issuing a new make and model of N95 FFR or equivalent to its workers.

This temporary enforcement guidance will likely be rescinded by OSHA once availability of N95 FFRs is restored in the global marketplace.

For additional information refer to the respirator section of the OSHA Salt Lake Technical Center’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

Q13: How is OSHA responding to COVID-19?

A13: The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) continues to be active in worker protection and safety. They have joined with their peers in the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to develop specific material useful for workplaces and businesses to protect workers.   While there is no a specific OSHA standard regarding COVID-19, OSHA will rely on the General Duty Clause to provide a safe and healthy place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.  OSHA will also rely on existing standards such as respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, hazard communications and recordkeeping for general guidance and enforcement.

In addition to several industry specific guidance, OSHA has also published helpful documents for businesses including:

  • Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19: This publication assists in identifying COVID-19 a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and considerations to reduce the impact on the workplace.
  • Classification of Worker Exposure Risk to COVID-19: This publication assists in evaluating and classifying job tasks into four risk exposure levels.
  • Guidance on Returning to Work: This new publication assists employers in the steps to consider with re-opening operations in a phased approach. The publication reinforces and provide examples covering six main Guiding Principles:
    • Hazard Assessment
    • Hygiene
    • Social Distancing
    • Identification and isolation of sick employees
    • Return to work after illness or exposure
    • Controls: including engineering, administrative, work practices and protective equipment

Q14: How do I determine if COVID-19 is OSHA recordable?

A14: OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic and recordkeeping.  Organizations need to carefully evaluate the report of injury/illness.  OSHA is looking at employer practices and reasonable investigation into work-relatedness based on the information available to the employer. OSHA compliance officers are being advised to evaluate areas such as, if the job duties require the workers to be in close contact with the public, whether cases have occurred among workers who work together, worker(s) develop symptoms after close exposure with a positive worker. 

Special Events

Q15: What are the key considerations for summer youth program events? 

A15: Preparation and following CDC, state, and local public health department guidelines is the most critical step.   A detailed evaluation of the events and a hazard assessment of the activity or school program that will be taking place is necessary with COVID-19 prevention efforts in mind.

Guidance can be found in the CDC activities and initiatives which provides detail on COVID-19 considerations for youth programs and summer camps.

  • Evaluate necessity and conduct a hazard assessment for each event and activity.
  • Consider and discuss with legal counsel a COVID-19 clause for assumption of risk and waiver of liability for camp/activity participation agreement forms.
  • Follow CDC guidance for mass transit for school provided transportation.
  • Stagger arrival and drop-off times or implement protocols to limit close contact. with parents/caregivers as much as possible.
  • Implement policies and practices for social distancing.
  • Follow enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices, particularly of shared spaces and equipment.
  • Encourage frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitizers.
  • Keep groups together to avoid switching groups or teachers, allowing minimal mixing between groups.
  • Conduct daily health checks of staff and participants in accordance to all State/Public Health recommendations.
  • Train staff and have a plan for when a staff member, child, or visitor becomes sick.
  • Maintain contact with the local department of health or the state department of education as specifics, directives, or guidance evolves.

Additional guidance on this topic can be found at the American Camp Association.

Q16:  Should the use of a waiver be contemplated or recommended as a risk management tool for business re-opening?

A16:  Legal counsel involvement is recommended if considering the use of COVID-19 waivers, disclaimers, or signage.

  • A waiver and/or disclaimer are intended as an acknowledgement of an assumption of a COVID-19 risk as a result of utilizing a service or patronizing a business.
  • These controls may be considered legal documents thus needing legal counsel involvement concerning their impact, as well as a review for proper wording, requirements, and documentation.
  • Ask your legal counsel to explain if there are any local, state and federal legal immunities/protections that may reduce the risk of litigation.

As part of your risk management process, please follow the specific state guidelines for each phase of the reopening as well as refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reopening considerations CDC COVID-19. This is vital because businesses shouldn’t rely on waivers as their only risk management control. All businesses have a standard of care as well as the duty to inform.

Where there are insurance coverage questions, please refer to your broker.

Additional Help

Q17: How do I get in touch with the Risk Control and engineering organizations for a safety question, whether general or related to COVID-19, or for safety resources?

A17: Contact your risk control specialist or risk engineer by phone or email. They can provide a prompt response to your need.  We also offer both live and recorded webinars on a wide variety of topics. We provide access to additional training via our vendor partnerships with Summit Training and JJ Keller.

Give our Risk Control Consulting Center a call at 866-757-7324 or email us.  

 

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

 

Risk control tools for the current climate

We are here to help you navigate these uncertain times.

We are here to help you navigate these uncertain times.

Risk control services are available to meet your needs, even in a changing world.  As businesses work to address the unforeseen challenges of COVID-19, Helmsman is here to assist. Our dedicated teams of risk control experts provide responses and recommendations that help you prepare and protect your business. From industrial hygiene techniques to critical property protocol, we’re coordinating solutions that you can use to mitigate your risk during this unprecedented time.   

Industrial hygiene

Our team of certified industrial hygienists is addressing critical client questions around safety equipment – whether it’s finding alternative solutions or adapting use to maximize safety. As stockpiles of face masks, filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), and sanitizing/disinfecting materials become depleted or if your operations have changed to meet this critical need, we’re available to provide information and guidance on:

  • N95 face mask alternatives
  • Approved methods of disinfecting N95 facepiece respirators for reuse in approved industries
  • Making your own alcohol-based hand sanitizer in accordance with CDC guidelines
  • Occupational disease exposure assessments via photo submission and other virtual consulting activities

Property

We are diligently working alongside our customers to address crucial property issues. As your business operations shift focus or potentially change in scale, property protections are a critical concern that we understand. Our property engineers are readily available to:

  • Conduct no-cost virtual surveys, through remote tools in conjunction with personnel still present on-site, or by conducting phone surveys. Both of these methods can help with ongoing insurance program quotes for current customers and prospects.
  • Consult on a specific issue or area of concern, whether around regular operations or a challenge posed by this unique situation.
  • Provide consultations on new construction projects and other planned facility/operations changes.
  • Answer your questions about a developing issue via our 24/7 impairment hotline or address a specific emergency response.

Consulting Center

To better support your changing operations, our virtual consulting center is working remotely to provide faster response times and assist with your industry-specific needs. These long-established teams of qualified virtual consultants are more important than ever as they continue to identify solutions and provide you with resources in this rapidly changing environment.

We’re working alongside you by:

  • Using cutting-edge technology to virtually observe tasks and processes at any location and provide consultations
  • Proactively following up on timely and relevant information sent to clients, so they have the right technical support
  • Fielding inquiries from essential businesses, such as grocery stores, and those that support them
  • Helping assess specific changes in operations and subsequent new and unexpected exposures, such as:
    • Manufacturers shifting production
    • Many industries transitioning to working from home
    • Schools that have volunteers delivering meals
    • Identifying virtual training opportunities

Our dedicated consulting center (1-866-757-7324) is available 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday to help with your risk control and property needs. 

As we continue to adapt to the changing landscape of COVID-19, we are here to help manage the on-going risk factors to your business. Additional information on our COVID-19 preparedness and response services, along with insights from our specialists, is available here.

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.

Guidelines for stores using employee vehicles for deliveries

Review guidance on selecting drivers, vehicle specifications, driver expectations, and more.

As “stay at home” orders become commonplace across the country, more people are limited in their options to secure necessities. To meet the growing need, grocery and convenience stores have expanded their delivery services.

In addition following food safety and proper food handling practices, these stores should also review and implement guidelines for employees who are now using their vehicles for deliveries.

Before your store begins offering grocery delivery — or even if it already does — there are many controls to consider. We know you want to do what you can to help people, and we’re here to help you protect your business, employees, and the public while you do.

Download our reference note for guidance on selecting drivers, vehicle specifications, driver expectations, and more. 

Download PDF

Your safety and well-being are our primary concern. These suggestions are general in nature, so please ensure that any activities you contemplate comply with all federal, state, and local COVID-19 orders impacting your facilities or operations as well as CDC guidelines for social distancing, hygiene, and other recommended best practices.

Our risk control services are advisory only. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer safety activities, implementing any recommended corrective measures, or identifying all potential hazards. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations. Please refer to the appropriate government authority for interpretation or clarification.