New COVID-19 Developments for Employers

December 15, 2020
mask-at-work

Just when employers thought they had a handle on COVID-19 compliance, the pandemic worsened. As a result, there have been a number of new developments. Below are a few things you need to know.

New State COVID-19 Standards

In November, California’s Department of Industrial Relations’ Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to adopt emergency temporary standards related to COVID-19.

The new rules require employers to have a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan. The plan must include specific and detailed information, including correcting COVID-19 hazards, criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19, a system for communicating COVID-19 prevention procedures to employees, and much more. Employers should refer to the standard before creating their plan.

California is not the only state to pass its own standards. According to EHS Daily Advisor, Virginia, Michigan, and Oregon have also established emergency COVID-19 standards.

Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19

Employees who contract COVID-19 may be able to file a successful workers’ compensation claim if they can demonstrate that they were infected at work. Some states, including California, have made this easier with new rules that create a presumption for COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims.

In November, the Insurance Journal reported that, based on figures from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, there had been 50,592 COVID-19 claims, including 282 deaths, so far.

A New Round of Stay-at-Home Orders

As COVID-19 cases spike around the country, some local governments are establishing new stay-at-home orders.  

As of November 21, California has a limited stay-at-home order in counties with high COVID-19 numbers. The Los Angeles Times says that, as of early December, 28 counties in the state have stay-at-home orders in effect. Among other things, these orders may close outdoor dining, movie theaters, and wineries. Other states, including Washington and Oregon, have also issued new restrictions in response to the rising case this fall.

According to ABC, some restaurant owners in California are worried that these new restrictions will put them out of business, and they plan to stay open in defiance of the rules. However, this strategy can result in serious consequences, including expensive fines.

Holiday Parties

This year, many employers are reimagining their holiday parties with safety in mind. Employee Benefits Advisor warns that making virtual parties mandatory may not go over well with employees while using the funds to provide bonuses or other benefits would likely be very well received.  

OSHA Penalties

As we covered last week, OSHA is taking COVID-19 seriously, and it wants your company to do the same. OSHA has been busy issuing penalties related to COVID-19 violations, while some states have approved new COVID-19 standards of their own.

Between the start of the pandemic and November 19, OSHA proposed penalties totaling $3,301,932 in connection to COVID-19.

To avoid OSHA citations, employers should make sure they are complying with OSHA’s various requirements. The COVID-19 FAQ covers common questions that employers might have, including the reporting requirements that say employers have eight hours to report fatalities that occur after workplace exposure.

Employers should also review OSHA’s page on standards related to COVID-19. The most relevant standards include standards on personal protective equipment, as well as the General Duty Clause.

Heffernan is your risk management partner. Contact us if you have any questions, and visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more information.