OSHA Enforcement Priorities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Due to complaints related to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), insufficient training on appropriate standards and possible coronavirus illness (COVID-19) transmissions in the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued temporary guidance for its area offices to use in their efforts to enforce the agency’s workplace safety and health mandates. These mandates require employers to take prompt actions to mitigate hazards and protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

The new guidance, issued on April 13, 2020, directs OSHA compliance officers to process most complaints from non-healthcare and non-emergency response establishments as “non-formal” and to conduct investigations via phone or fax whenever possible. However, employers should know that after receiving a serious incident report, OSHA area directors will determine whether to conduct an inspection or a rapid response investigation (RRI). RRIs are intended to identify any hazards, provide abatement assistance and confirm abatement, and OSHA generally encourages area directors to recommend them.

This Compliance Bulletin provides a summary of the enforcement guidance provisions that relate specifically to COVID-19 issues.

Action Steps

Employers should use this Compliance Bulletin to become familiar with the procedures and guidelines OSHA will use to enforce workplace safety and health laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are encouraged to contact their local OSHA area office if they have concerns or need clarification on how to comply with specific OSHA standards.

COVID-19 Inspections

Under the guidance issued on April 13, 2020, OSHA’s area offices will prioritize their resources in coordination with their regional offices to determine whether an on-site inspection of the workplace is necessary. If an on-site inspection is warranted, compliance officers will evaluate the risk of COVID-19 exposure before the inspection takes place. Employers should note that OSHA is encouraging their compliance officers to maximize the use of electronic means of communication (including remote video surveillance, phone interviews, email correspondence, facsimile and email transmittals of documents and video conferences) and to consult with their regional solicitors when appropriate.

If an on-site inspection is warranted, compliance officers will coordinate with their regional office and contact the Office of Occupational Medicine and Nursing (OOMN), as necessary, whenever they identify a workplace with potential for high-risk exposure to COVID-19. The OOMN may serve as a liaison with relevant public health authorities and can facilitate Medical Access Orders (MAOs) to obtain worker medical records from employers and healthcare providers.

COVID-19 inspections will be treated as novel cases. The Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) must be notified of all proposed citations and federal agency notices that relate to a COVID-19 exposure. State Plan designees should report any COVID-19 inspections to their regional offices.

All activity related to enforcement and compliance assistance must be appropriately coded to allow for tracking and program review. This includes COVID-19 activity, which should continue to be coded in the OSHA Information System (OIS) with the specific code: N-16-COVID-19.

Workplace Exposure Risk Levels

To determine the risk of exposure for compliance officers, OSHA has defined three risk categories—high, medium and low. These risk levels stem from the Occupational Risk Pyramid described in the OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

High Risk of Exposure

Jobs considered to be at high or very high risk of exposure are those that involve known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, postmortem or laboratory procedures.

Workplaces considered to have job duties with high risk of exposure to COVID-19 include:

  • Hospitals treating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients;
  • Nursing homes;
  • Emergency medical centers;
  • Emergency response facilities;
  • Settings where home care or hospice care are provided;
  • Settings that handle human remains;
  • Biomedical laboratories, including clinical laboratories; and
  • Medical transport companies.

Aerosol-generating procedures, in particular, present a very high risk of exposure to workers. The aerosol-generating procedures for which engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) are necessary include, but are not limited to: bronchoscopy, sputum induction, nebulizer therapy, endotracheal intubation and extubation, open suctioning of airways, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and autopsies.

Medium Exposure Risk

Medium exposure-risk jobs include those with frequent or close contact with people who may be (but are not known to be) infected with COVID-19. “Close contact” refers to a distance of less than six feet. Workers in this risk group may have frequent contact with travelers returning from international locations with widespread COVID-19 transmission.

In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, workers in this category include, but are not limited to, those who have contact with the general public (such as in schools, high-population-density work environments and some high-volume retail settings).

Low Exposure Risk

Lower exposure risk jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with COVID-19 nor frequent close contact with the general public.

Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other co-workers.

Complaints, Referrals and Rapid Response Investigations (RRIs)

Complaints and referrals for any operation alleging potential exposures to COVID-19 will be handled in accordance with established procedures, except that employers will be notified of alleged hazards or violations by telephone, fax, email or letter.

Through their phone or fax communications, area offices will direct employers to publicly available guidance on protective measures, such as OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage. As it deems appropriate, OSHA will forward complaint information to federal partners with concurrent interests.

Fatalities and Imminent Dangers

Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to COVID-19 will be prioritized for inspections, with particular attention given to health care organizations and first responders.

During the outbreak, formal complaints alleging unprotected exposures to COVID-19 for workers with a high or very high risk of transmission may warrant an on-site inspection. Area offices will prioritize resources and consider all relevant factors, including whether a complainant alleges inadequate PPE due to supply issues, in determining whether to perform a non-formal phone or fax investigation instead of an on-site inspection.

Other Formal Complaints

In general, most other formal complaints alleging COVID-19 exposure will not result in an on-site inspection if employees are engaged in tasks that involve medium or lower risk of exposure. In these cases, area offices will use the non-formal procedures for investigating alleged hazards.

However, employer-reported hospitalizations will be handled using RRIs in most cases.

Finally, employers should keep in mind that workers requesting inspections, complaining of COVID-19 exposure or reporting illnesses may be covered under one or more whistleblower statutes.

Inspection Scope, Scheduling, and Procedures

Inspection activities resulting from COVID-19-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses will primarily focus on facilities with jobs involving high and very high risk of exposure. OSHA aims to reassure employers that, during on-site inspections, compliance officers will take care to avoid interfering with any ongoing medical services.

Compliance officers will inspect facilities in a manner that minimizes or prevents exposure, such as by avoiding potential exposure to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. It is not generally necessary for compliance officers to enter patient rooms or airborne isolation areas. If compliance officers must enter a vacant, airborne-infection-isolation room (AIIR), sufficient time must lapse to allow for proper clearance of potentially infectious aerosols before they enter. Before entering an occupied AIIR or a recently vacated AIIR that has not been adequately purged, a compliance officer must discuss the issue with his or her area director.

Opening Conferences

To avoid unnecessary exposure, compliance officers may decide to conduct opening conferences over the phone. However, if an on-site opening conference is deemed appropriate, officers will attempt to use a designated, uncontaminated administrative area. If available, officers may also ask to speak to a facility’s infection control director, safety director or the health professional responsible for controlling occupational health hazards. Individuals who are responsible for providing records pertinent to an inspection may also be included in the opening conference or interviewed early in the inspection. These individuals may include, for example, facility administrators, training directors, facilities engineers, nursing directors and human resources personnel.

Program and Document Review

Compliance officers will strive to conduct the following electronically or remotely:

  • Determining whether an employer has a written pandemic plan as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If an employer’s plan is a part of another emergency preparedness plan, a compliance officer’s review does not need to be expanded to the entire emergency preparedness plan. The evaluation of an employer’s pandemic plan may be based on other written programs and, in a hospital, a review of its infection control plan.
  • Reviewing the facility’s procedures for hazard assessment and protocols for PPE use with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
  • Determining whether a workplace has handled specimens or evaluated, cared for, or treated suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. This will include a review of laboratory procedures for handling specimens and procedures for decontamination of surfaces.
  • Reviewing other relevant information, such as medical records related to worker exposure incidents, OSHA-required recordkeeping and any other pertinent information or documentation deemed appropriate by a compliance officer. This includes determining whether any employees have contracted COVID-19, have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, or have been placed on precautionary removal or isolation.
  • Reviewing a respiratory protection program and any modified respirator policies related to COVID-19 to assess compliance with respiratory protection standards.
  • Reviewing employee training records, including any records of training related to COVID-19 exposure prevention or made in preparation for a pandemic, if available.
  • Reviewing employer documentation of provisions made to obtain and provide appropriate and adequate supplies of PPE.
  • Determining whether a facility has airborne infection isolation rooms or areas and gathering information about an employer’s use of air pressure monitoring systems and any periodic testing procedures. This also includes reviewing any procedures for assigning patients to those rooms or areas and procedures to limit access to them by employees who are not trained or adequately outfitted with PPE.
  • Reviewing an employer’s procedures for transferring patients to other facilities in situations where appropriate isolation rooms or areas are unavailable or inoperable. This includes reviewing procedures for transferring COVID-19 patients from other facilities.
  • Establishing the numbers and placements of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients under isolation at the time of an inspection.
  • Establishing patterns of placements for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients in the preceding 30 days.
  • Determining and documenting whether an employer has considered or implemented a hierarchy of controls for worker protection. This documentation can be done with photos or design specifications.

Walkaround

Based on information from program and document review and interviews, compliance officers will use professional judgment in determining which areas of a facility will be inspected. Compliance officers will avoid entering patient rooms or treatment areas while high-hazard procedures are being conducted.

Where practical, photographs or videotaping may be used for case documentation. However, compliance officers will take all necessary precautions to assure and protect patient privacy and confidentiality. Throughout their engagement with facilities treating a significant number of COVID-19 patients, compliance officers should take care to avoid interference with the facilities’ provision of ongoing medical services.

Private Interviews

As appropriate to an inspection, compliance officers may conduct private interviews with affected employees in uncontaminated areas. However, interviews will not take place in a room or area where a high-hazard procedure, such as bronchoscopy or sputum induction, is being or recently has been conducted. To the extent possible, compliance officers will practice social distancing during employee interviews. Also, when possible, officers may choose to conduct these interviews over the phone.

As has been the case since 1950, the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance are happy to help you. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

Coronavirus Construction Action Plan

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has impacted businesses across a variety of industries, forcing them to rethink their daily operations to ensure the safety of their employees and the general public. This is no different for construction firms, where multiple contractors and tradespeople on a job site may be working in the same space at any one time. In these instances, just one misstep can lead to the quick spread of COVID-19, jeopardizing the well-being of workers.

To help slow the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard our staff, Morris & Reynolds Insurance has created a standardized action plan for responding to COVID-19. This plan, which is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance, highlights responsibilities of managers and employees, job site safety measures and OSHA recordkeeping considerations. While there may be worksite-specific considerations to keep in mind, this action plan includes general strategies company officials and employees can use to address COVID-19 concerns and remain safe on the job.

Responsibilities

When it comes to ensuring a safe job site during the COVID-19 outbreak, both managers and employees have their role to play. The following is a breakdown of the possible responsibilities for your leadership and staff.

Managers and Supervisors

Your leaders, including managers and supervisors, should familiarize themselves with the details of the action plan. Above all, leadership must be prepared to answer questions from employees and set a good example by adhering to the guidance prescribed in the plan. This involves practicing social distancing and good personal hygiene.

Employees

Employees play a critical role in your COVID-19 prevention efforts. To protect everyone on the worksite, we are suggesting a number of best practices employees can follow:

  • Understand the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and stay home if you are feeling sick—Any employee who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, chills or fatigue) should stay home. Individuals experiencing such symptoms should also be instructed to consult guidance from the CDC on seeking medical care.
  • Practice good hygiene—Employees should clean their hands often, either with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60%-95% alcohol, and employees should wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. In addition, employees should avoid touching their face and cough into their arm.
  • Practice social distancing—Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. In terms of COVID-19, social distancing best practices for employees can include:
    • Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
    • Keeping at least 6 feet of distance from other people
    • Hosting meetings virtually when possible
    • Working from home when possible
    • Refraining from shaking hands
    • Refraining from sharing tools and personal protective equipment (PPE)

Job Site Protective Measures

In order to keep staff safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we recommend the following job site protective measures:

General Safety Policies

  • Employees, visitors and contractors who exhibit signs or symptoms of COVID-19 will be asked to leave the worksite.
  • Where possible, meetings will be conducted virtually or via telephone. For in-person meetings, participants will be limited to groups of 10, and employees will be asked to remain 6 feet apart. Attendance will be tracked verbally in lieu of using a physical sign-in sheet.
  • Employees will be asked to practice social distancing and should keep at least 6 feet of distance from co-workers, contractors and visitors.
  • Employees should stagger lunches to limit the number of individuals congregating in break areas. You may divide crews to reduce the number of workers on the job site at any given time.
  • Provide access to handwashing stations and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Employees should refrain from sharing tools and equipment. In instances where this is unavoidable, provide alcohol-based wipes and other cleaning materials that employees can use to clean tools and equipment.
  • Employees will be asked to avoid using a common water cooler. For increased safety, provide employees with disposable plastic water bottles or instruct them to bring their own.

Workers Entering Occupied Buildings and Homes

  • Employees should assess the unique hazards associated with occupied structures before entering them. Employees should ask occupants to keep at least 6 feet of distance from them.
  • Employees should sanitize work areas before entering the building, throughout the day and then before leaving for the day. Provide alcohol-based wipes for cleaning purposes.

Job Site Visitors

  • Limit visitors to the job site to necessary personnel only.
  • Screen visitors to the job site. Supervisors may ask targeted questions to visitors regarding their current health before they enter the job site. If they answer yes to the following questions, supervisors may ask them to go home and not return to the job site until further notice:
    • Have you been in contact with a person who has tested positive or is in the process of being tested for COVID-19?
    • Have you or anyone you’ve been in contact with traveled outside of the United States recently?
    • Has a medical professional told you to self-quarantine?
    • Are you having trouble breathing, or have you had flu-like symptoms within the past 48 hours (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, chills or fatigue)?
  • Deliveries will be permitted, but should be completed with social distancing best practices in mind.

Personal Protective Equipment and Work Practice Controls

  • In addition to standard PPE, like hard hats and hearing protection, provide:
    • Gloves—Employees should wear gloves at all times while at the job site. The types of gloves employees use should be appropriate for the task at hand. If gloves aren’t typically required for a given task, any type of glove would be appropriate, including latex gloves.
    • Eye protection—Employees should wear eye protection at all times while on the job site.
  • Employees should use N95 respirators if the task requires it. However, due to the current shortage of N95 respirators, employees are encouraged to reduce the need for masks by:
    • Keeping dust down through the use of engineering and workplace controls. This could involve using water-delivery or dust-collection systems.
    • Limiting their exposure to workplace dust.
    • Practicing good housekeeping to reduce dust on the job site.

Personnel Considerations

To ensure job site safety, commit to working with all personnel as well as third-party vendors and partners to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Specific precautions include:

  • For general contractors, require firms/individuals to:
    • Provide the materials and assistance necessary to increase job site hygiene.
    • Train their personnel on COVID-19 awareness and safety procedures.
    • Perform status checks and other meetings virtually to avoid large gatherings.
  • For subcontractors, require firms/individuals to:
    • Develop a hygiene plan to supplement policies and procedures created for general contractors.
    • Refrain from in-person meetings when possible.
    • Train their personnel on COVID-19 awareness and safety procedures.
  • For project superintendents and project managers, require individuals to:
    • Instruct employees to stay home if they are sick.
    • Ensure handwashing stations are well stocked.
  • For safety professionals, require individuals to:
    • Communicate and execute on guidance from the CDC, OSHA, World Health Organization and other government sources.
    • Ensure employees are properly trained on COVID-19, particularly as it relates to preventing the spread of the disease.
    • Review existing policies on workplace hygiene.

Job Site Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • The worksite, trailers and break areas must be cleaned at least once per day. This can involve sanitizing doorknobs, keyboards, tools, reusable supplies and equipment. Employees responsible for cleaning will be given the appropriate PPE. Cleaning should be completed using CDC-recommended products, including:
    • Environmental Protection Agency-registered household disinfectants
    • Alcohol solutions with at least 60% alcohol
    • Diluted household bleach solutions (if appropriate for the surface)
  • Trash will be collected from the job site regularly. Those collecting trash will be instructed to wear nitrile, latex or vinyl gloves.
  • Portable toilets will be sanitized at least twice per week.
  • Frequently touched services will be disinfected often.
  • Vehicles, equipment and tools will be cleaned at least once per day and before a change in operator or user occurs.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers will be refilled frequently.
  • When an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, ensure areas in which the individual worked are cleaned thoroughly.

Job Site Exposure Situations

Create response plans in place for situations where employees exhibit symptoms of or tests positive for COVID-19.

Employee Exhibits Symptoms of COVID-19

In the event an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19, they will be asked to remain at home until they are symptom-free without the use of medications (e.g., fever reducers or cough suppressants) for 24 hours or four to five full days after symptoms improve. If possible, employees will be asked to obtain a doctor’s note before returning to work.

Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 will be instructed to follow the advice of a qualified medical professional and self-quarantine. Specifically, employees who have tested positive should not return to work until they have been symptom-free for seven full days. Employees who have tested positive and been hospitalized should consult their medical care provider to determine when they can return to work. If possible, employees will be asked to obtain a doctor’s note before returning to work.

Employee Comes Into Contact With an Individual Who Has Tested Positive for COVID-19

Employees who have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be instructed to self-quarantine. Employees should self-quarantine for at least 14 days from the last day they had contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19. If it was an employee who tested positive, conduct an investigation to determine who may have had close contact with said employee. Those individuals will also be instructed to self-quarantine.

OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting

Adhere to OSHA-mandated requirements as they relate to recording and reporting certain work-related injuries and illnesses.

Questions

If employees have any questions regarding the content of this action plan, they should be instructed to speak with their supervisor. Furthermore, while the strategies highlighted in this document can protect workers from COVID-19, it’s important to follow CDC guidance at all times. For more information, click here.

As has been the case since 1950, the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance are happy to help you. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

Reopening a Business After the Coronavirus Shutdown

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to have an unprecedented effect on daily life, many business owners are looking forward to the future and a return to normalcy. However, even when stay-at-home orders are lifted and nonessential businesses are allowed to resume operations, there’s a lot for organizations to consider before they reopen their doors. What’s more, many of these considerations are workplace-specific and could be more involved depending on the industry you operate in.

To protect their customers and employees alike, it’s important for organizations to do their due diligence before opening their business back up to the public following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Determining When to Reopen

While many essential businesses (e.g., hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations) have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, other operations deemed nonessential have shut down temporarily or changed the nature of their operations. Not only has this led to significant business disruptions, but, for many, it has critically impacted their bottom line.

However, we may be nearing a time when stay-at-home regulations are scaled back and all businesses are allowed to resume as normal. The question then is: How will business owners know it is acceptable to reopen? The following are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Review guidance from state and local governments—The COVID-19 pandemic impacts states and regions in different ways. Just because a business is allowed to reopen in one region of the country doesn’t automatically mean your operations will be allowed to resume as well. As such, it’s critical to understand and review all relevant state and local orders to determine if and when your business is allowed to reopen.
  • Understand the risks—If and when the government allows all businesses to reopen, that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat to your operations. What’s more, some businesses may have greater COVID-19 exposures than others, underscoring the importance of performing a thorough risk assessment before reopening. Prior to conducting a risk assessment, it’s important to review guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), state and local agencies, industry associations as well as your local health department. More information on conducting a risk assessment can be found below.

Again, before reopening, it’s critical to seek the expertise of legal, insurance and other professionals.

Conducting a Risk Assessment

Even after the government allows businesses to reopen, firms still need to determine if it makes sense to resume operations. Safely restarting your business won’t be as simple as unlocking the front door.

Before reopening, businesses should perform a risk assessment to determine what steps must be taken. While the complexity of risk assessments will differ from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:

  • Identifying the hazards—When it comes to COVID-19, businesses need to think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person entered their facilities. When identifying hazards, it’s a good idea to perform a walkthrough of the premises and consider high-risk areas (e.g., breakrooms and other areas where people may congregate). It’s also important to consider what tasks employees are performing and whether or not they are especially exposed to COVID-19 risks when performing their duties.
  • Deciding who may be harmed and how—Once you’ve identified hazards to your business, you need to determine what populations of your workforce are exposed to COVID-19 risks. When performing this evaluation, you will need to make note of high-risk individuals (e.g., staff members who meet with customers or individuals with preexisting medical conditions).
  • Assessing risks—Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyze them to determine their potential consequences. For each risk facing your business, you’ll want to determine:
    • How likely is this particular risk to occur?
    • What are the ramifications should this risk occur?

When analyzing your risks, consider potential financial losses, compliance requirements, employee safety, business disruptions, reputational harm and other consequences.

  • Controlling risks—With a sense of what the threats to your business are, you can then consider ways to address them. There are a variety of methods businesses can use to manage their risks, including:
    • Risk avoidance—Risk avoidance is when a business eliminates certain hazards, activities and exposures from their operations altogether.
    • Risk control—Risk control involves preventive action.
    • Risk transfer—Risk transfer is when a business transfers their exposures to a third party.

For COVID-19, control measures could include cleaning protocols, work from home orders and mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) usage. Additional workplace considerations can be found below.

  • Monitoring the results—Risk management is an evolving, continuous process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness and reassess. Remember, COVID-19 risks facing your business can change over time.

Maintaining Workplace Safety Using OSHA and CDC Guidance

Once you conduct a risk assessment, you will need to act to control COVID-19 risks. Again, risks and the corrective steps that organizations take to address those risks will vary by business and industry.

Thankfully, there are a number of OSHA and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) workplace controls to consider if your risk assessment determines that COVID-19 poses a threat to your employees or customers. For instance, you should:

  • Implement administrative controls—Typically, administrative controls are changes in work policies or procedures that reduce or minimize an individual’s exposure to a hazard. An example of an administrative control for COVID-19 is establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time.
  • Utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)— PPE is equipment worn by individuals to reduce exposure to a hazard, in this case, CVOID-19. Businesses should focus on training workers on and proper PPE best practices. Employees should understand how to properly put on, take off and care for PPE. Training material should be easy to understand and must be available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers.
  • Consider engineering controls—Engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. For COVID-19, engineering controls can include:
    • Installing high-efficiency air filters
    • Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment
    • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards
  • Be adaptable—You should be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations. This could involve identifying alternative suppliers, prioritizing existing customers or suspending portions of your operations.
  • Create a dialogue with vendors and partners—Talk with business partners about your response plans. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities, and especially those in your supply chain.
  • Encourage social distancing—Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. In terms of COVID-19, social distancing best practices for businesses can include:
    • Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
    • Instructing workers to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people
    • Hosting meetings virtually when possible
    • Limiting the number of people on the jobs site to essential personnel only
    • Encouraging or requiring staff to work from home when possible
    • Discouraging people from shaking hands
  • Manage the different risk levels of their employees—It’s important to be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a distance of 6 feet from other workers, customers and visitors.
  • Separate sick employees—Employees who appear to have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers and visitors, and sent home. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19. The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.
  • Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene—Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVD-19. This can involve:
    • Providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles
    • Providing soap and water in the workplace
    • Placing hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection—Businesses should regularly sanitize their facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some best practices include:
    • Cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
    • Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
    • Providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.

Continued Safety

While resuming operations following the COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a daunting task, businesses don’t have to go it alone. To help with this process, organizations can seek the help of their insurance professionals to determine what actions they need to take to ensure their business reopens smoothly.

To learn more, contact Morris & Reynolds Insurance today. Whether you have a question about this topic or need help with any form of insurance, please contact us at any time at 305.238.1000.

Business Interruption Policies and Coronavirus

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak evolves, businesses face growing uncertainty as to how this pandemic will affect their operations long term. This is especially true when you consider that many organizations—including bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, retailers and manufacturers—have had to close their doors or cease operations as a result of COVID-19. Not only has this severely impacted their ability to serve their customers, but, for some, it has also led to indefinite disruptions—disruptions that could impact their bottom line.

As a result of the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 brings, many businesses are turning to insurance, like business interruption insurance, for help. In the event of a loss, business interruption insurance provides coverage for income a business would have earned had it been operating normally. It can also help pay for expenses like employee wages, taxes, rent, loan payments and relocation expenses.

However, these policies are complex, and protection for losses stemming from COVID-19 is typically not included. This Coverage Insights highlights characteristics and types of businesses interruption insurance, examining how the policies may or may not cover the outbreak.

Designated Perils

Under most business interruption insurance policies, coverage is only available if the loss in question stems from a covered peril. In many cases, covered perils include common interruptions like natural disasters, equipment damage and vandalism.

This means that, if the insurance policy requires a specific loss (e.g., a fire or earthquake) and the loss in question doesn’t qualify or is not stated explicitly, coverage may not be available. For the vast majority of businesses, COVID-19 will not constitute a designated peril, and business interruption insurance will not respond to losses.

Further, business interruption claims may arise from multiple causes, including both covered and uncovered perils. In these instances, the availability of coverage will depend on the policy language and any applicable laws regarding concurrent causes. Once again, coverage for COVID-19-related losses is unlikely.

Direct Physical Losses

Business interruption insurance is typically triggered by a direct physical loss or damage. Under this interpretation, contagious diseases like COVID-19 would likely not count as a covered loss. This is especially true as it relates to mandatory or voluntary closures stemming from human-to-human transmission of infectious diseases where a business’s physical location is still habitable.

Business interruption insurance is typically triggered by a direct physical loss or damage. Under this interpretation, contagious diseases like COVID-19 would likely not count as a covered loss. This is especially true as it relates to mandatory or voluntary closures stemming from human-to-human transmission of infectious diseases where a business’s physical location is still habitable.

However, some argue that COVID-19 can contaminate physical objects like HVAC systems or assembly lines, which in turn would force businesses to cease operations. In these scenarios, business interruption insurance could provide some protection. Still, most policy interpretations will make coverage unavailable. What’s more, most policies exclude coverage for viruses and other health crises altogether.

Civil Authority Coverage

In some cases, policies may extend business interruption coverage for losses that arise from civil authority orders. This essentially means that, if a business is unable to access its property due to government-mandated closures, coverage may be available. However, in most cases, a direct physical loss to an adjacent or nearby property is required in order for civil authority coverage to kick in. As such, businesses need to review their policies alongside their insurance professional to determine if civil authority coverage is available. For most insureds, civil authority clauses will not apply for losses stemming from COVID-19.

Endorsements for Infectious Diseases and Pandemics

While it’s true that traditional business interruption insurance policies may not extend to losses that arise from a health crisis or pandemic, specialized coverage for these disruptions may be available:

  • Communicable and infectious diseases coverage for hospitality and health care operations—Businesses in the hospitality or health care industry can secure dedicated coverage or endorsements for losses caused by communicable or infectious diseases. One benefit of this coverage is that a direct physical loss is generally not required for the policy to go into effect.
  • Pandemic-specific coverage—While past health crises, like the Ebola outbreak, led some insurers to exclude coverage for pandemics, others created specialized business interruption policies. These policies were created for operations like hospitals, hotels, airports, shopping centers, restaurants, theaters, gyms and other establishments that may have to close their doors as the result of a pandemic. While many of these policies were created specifically for Ebola, similar coverage may be available for COVID-19.

The availability of these forms of coverage will depend largely on the carrier and the insured. That said, it’s important for businesses to review their coverage with their insurance professional.

Contingent Business Interruption Insurance

Business interruption insurance is a crucial component of risk management programs, but it does not extend to disruptions to a third party. That’s where contingent business interruption insurance (CBI) comes in.

Unlike traditional business interruption insurance that compensates the policyholder for a loss resulting from damage to its own property, CBI lets businesses transfer the risk of certain losses to the property of a third party. CBI reimburses policyholders for lost profits and extra expenses resulting from an interruption of business at the premises of a customer, vendor, supplier or other third party.

This type of coverage is increasingly important as COVID-19 continues to affect the global economy. Even if a business is not located in an area where COVID-19 has been detected, aspects of their supply chain might be, leading to potential disruptions. In fact, in China—where COVID-19 originated—many workers have been ordered to stay home, forcing some manufacturers to halt operations. Without access to the products or components they need, businesses that partner with these manufactures also have to stop distribution.

While CBI could provide coverage in this scenario, there are caveats. With CBI, the covered third-party property may be specifically named, or the coverage may simply blanket all customers and suppliers. Insureds will have to review policy language to ensure their suppliers are included in the policy.

Additionally, similar to traditional business interruption policies, some form of property damage will need to occur before coverage is triggered. Again, contamination will likely not constitute property damage.

The 2020 Market for Business Interruption Insurance for Pandemic Virus Losses

While understanding that exclusions for virus and bacteria losses have been standard industry-wide exclusions for nearly two decades some have asked about the availability of such coverage going forward. With this question in mind we have begun polling insurers and brokers and are pleased to offer three examples of responses to our ongoing research received thus far:

Example One:

I’ve actually been asked about this more than once lately. At the moment, I don’t have any carriers offering any sort of pandemic coverages. Sorry!

Example Two:

Communicable Disease coverage is essentially unavailable in the marketplace right now.

Here are the only two exceptions to my statement above that I am currently aware of:

  • Lexington has publicly stated they will offer such coverage in the future, however specifically rating for it using rate-on-line price.  For instance, they may charge $100,000 – $200,000 premium for $1,000,000 of limit, and only in cases where they are the primary layer carrier on larger placements.
  • FM Global recently announced they would consider providing a $100,000 communicable disease sublimit for accounts they write.

Example Three:

I now have a monoline parametric pandemic product that I am offering now but it has a $200K minimum premium  and is not available for COVID-19 but will cover future outbreaks of viruses including future coronavirus of a different strain.

It’s a parametric product where payment is triggered by the emergence of an outbreak in a defined area (Such as the USA) and then various layers of their limit are triggered based on the number of deaths in the defined area. It’s 100% backed by Munich Re. $100M max limit available. At the moment, the minimum premium is making it cost prohibitive for main street businesses. The people buying it now are airports, hospitals, casinos, large hospitality groups. That cost should come down I the future as additional capacity is added.

We don’t have any carriers that are adding any pandemic or virus extensions, they are all excluding it.

Government or Legal Action?

All over America courts and governments are being asked to intervene to demand that insurers set aside their policy language and be forced to cover COVID19 claims. Whether such attempts will be effective remains to be seen but you can read more about what’s taking place by reading the April 3rd, 2020 edition of Bob’s Blog by our firm’s President & CEO, Bob Reynolds, CIC, CPIA, AAM, AIS, AU entitled An Unprecedented Interruption by clicking here:  http://morrisandreynolds.com/an-unprecedented-interruption/

Moving Forward

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, more organizations are looking to business interruption insurance, hoping it will respond to losses and help them weather the outbreak. However, COVID-19 is somewhat uncharted territory, and a number of factors come into play when it comes to insurability. In the vast majority of cases, business interruption policies will not likely apply to COVID-19 losses unless a court of governmental entity forces insurers to change their contractual wording.  

Moving forward, businesses should review their insurance programs to:

  • Ensure the policies they have in place provide sufficient protection. 
  • Avoid overlooking unique exposures COVID-19 brings. 
  • Determine how COVID-19 could impact their various lines of insurance beyond business interruption coverage. 

To continue the discussion, please contact the professional agents and underwriters at Morris & Reynolds Insurance today. We are happy to help you with your questions, filing a claim or on anything else you might need. 305.238.1000.

Coronavirus and Managing Remote Work Cyber Risks

Given the implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, countless employees across a variety of industries are working remotely. While this allows businesses to remain operational, it can create a number of risks, particularly for those who fail to take the proper precautions.

Above all, information security is one the greatest challenges for companies allowing remote work during the COVID-19 outbreak. When an employee is at the office, their work is protected by safety standards that keep your company’s network and data secure. However, an employee working from home may not have the same safety measures in place to protect your organization’s devices and information.

In order to safeguard your business and employees from data breaches, cyber scams and viruses, consider the following strategies:

  • Train employees on how to detect and respond to phishing attacks. Criminals prey on unfortunate circumstances, seeking to capitalize on victims during times of panic and hardship. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Cyber criminals have been known to pose as charities and legitimate websites to lure victims into sending money and revealing personal information. Individuals should scrutinize any emails, texts and social media posts related to COVID-19 and be cautious when clicking any links and attachments. Specifically, employees should be instructed to:
    • Avoid clicking links from unsolicited emails, and be wary of email attachments.
    • Use trusted sources when looking for factual information on COVID-19, such as CDC.gov.
    • Never give out personal or financial information via email, even if the sender seems legitimate.
    • Never respond to emails soliciting personal or financial information.
    • Verify a charity’s authenticity before making any donations.
  • Have a virtual private network (VPN) in place, and ensure employees are using it to access company systems and data when working remotely. VPNs encrypt internet traffic, which can be particularly useful when your employees are connected to a home or public network. Furthermore, it could be beneficial for your company to prohibit employees from accessing company information from public networks altogether.
  • Mandate the use of security and anti-virus software. This software should be up to date and include the latest patches.
  • Educate your employees on the kinds of sensitive data they are obligated to protect. This could include confidential business information, trade secrets, intellectual property and personal information. When working with sensitive data, employees should take to the same precautions they would if they were at the office. They should avoid using their personal email for company business and think critically about the documents they are printing at home. If they must print sensitive information, they should shred the document when it is no longer needed. Encrypting sensitive information can also help you protect any data that is stored or sent to remote devices.
  • Prohibit employees from sharing their work devices with friends and family members. Doing so reduces risks associated with unauthorized or inadvertent access of company information.
  • Have employees update their contact information. That way, if your systems are compromised, you can easily contact your staff and provide the appropriate updates and instructions.
  • Create and communicate a system that employees can use to report lost or stolen equipment. This will help your IT department respond quickly and mitigate potential data loss threats.
  • Require two-factor authentication for all company passwords. Two-factor authentication adds a layer of security that allows companies to protect against compromised credentials. Through this method, users must confirm their identity by providing extra information (e.g., a phone number or unique security code) when attempting to access corporate applications, networks and servers. This additional login hurdle means that would-be cyber criminals won’t easily unlock an account, even if they have the password in hand.
  • Consider security precautions for mobile devices. Proper phone security is just as important as a well-protected computer network. A smartphone could grant access to any number of applications, emails and stored passwords. Depending on how your organization uses such devices, unauthorized access to the information on a smartphone or tablet could be just as damaging as a data breach involving more traditional computer systems.

For additional protection, employers should consider backing up data and bolstering network protections as best as they can. For more cyber security guidance, contact Morris & Reynolds Insurance today at 305.238.1000.