New York hopes to have 170,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by December 15. According to Fox, proposed legislation could make the vaccine mandatory in the state.
For now, however, employers must do everything they can to prevent the spread of the virus.
The pandemic is still a developing situation, so it’s important to keep up with evolving local and federal guidelines. Employers should pay particular attention to OSHA requirements for COVID-19, as well as the possibility of workers’ compensation claims.
OSHA has released Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, as well as a COVID-19 FAQ. The FAQ covers a multitude of topics, including personal protective equipment, testing, training, retaliation and more. Employers should also pay attention to the reporting requirements. If an employee dies after a work-related exposure to COVID-19, the employer must report the death within eight hours of learning about it.
Employers are expected to take measures to keep workers safe from the coronavirus, and if they don’t, they could face expensive penalties as well as workers’ compensation claims. On November 27, OSHA announced that it had proposed $3,301,932 in penalties related to COVID-19.
OSHA says that the penalties it has proposed in connection to COVID-19 have been for various violations, including the failure to implement a written respirator protection program; failure to provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on proper use of a respirator and PPE; failure to report an injury, illness or death; failure to record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms; and failure to comply with OSHA’s General Duty Clause.
Don’t assume that your workers won’t be able to claim workers’ compensation if they get sick. Although it can be difficult to prove where a person contracted a virus – and whether it’s work-related – the New York Workers’ Compensation Board says that it is possible to receive workers’ compensation benefits if a worker gets COVID-19 while working.
In New York, whether or not a workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 is approved will depend on the details of the individual case. If a claim is made, it will be reviewed by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, and if the carrier disputes the claim, a judge at the Workers’ Compensation Board will make a decision.
If workers’ compensation is awarded, it could cover medical treatment and wage replacement, as well as benefits to surviving dependents and reimbursement for funeral expenses in the event of death. According to Business Insurance, the National Council on Compensation Insurance says that the medical costs for COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims have averaged $38,000 per claim.
The Holiday Party
Employers are having to rethink the traditional holiday party. Although some may switch to virtual parties, making attendance mandatory might backfire with so many people suffering from stress and Zoom fatigue.
According to Employee Benefit Advisor, employers should consider reallocating funds for the holiday party. A LinkedIn study found that more than half of employees would prefer a bonus, and about a third want paid time off.
As always, BNC Insurance is your risk management partner. Contact us with questions and watch for ongoing COVID-19 resource information here.