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When Essential Business Is Risky Business: Workers’ Comp & OSHA Considerations in the Time of COVID-19

Apr 27, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to rearrange the structure of our workplaces and daily routines, the construction industry has been absorbing the shock of this global event in a unique fashion. At the time of this writing, the businesses for most construction contractors are considered “essential” under the various state law codes covering disaster responses. While the immediate benefit of continued operations is significant, contractors need to be aware of risks to which their businesses will also be exposed, including risks related to workers’ compensation and reporting requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Know Your Workers’ Compensation Policies

The good news for contractors is that most are continuing to work despite wide-spread stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders throughout the nation. While this provides for more cash flow-generating opportunities, construction workers will have elevated potential for exposure to the COVID-19 virus.  Additionally, this presents the risks of micro-clusters for construction crews. Contractors need to have a clear understanding of the coverages in their workers’ compensation policies, including what events are or are not excluded from coverage in the event of COVID-infection. Taking the time to read the provisions related to illness due to bacterial and viral infections will be of particular interest to contractors to ensure any claims pertaining to COVID-19 are adequately covered.

OSHA Considerations

Adding to considerations for contractors, OSHA declared COVID-19 to be a reportable event. OSHA has a new website dedicated to resources for addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. While there are no standards that address pandemic circumstances, a combination of existing requirements, including the Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) and guidance regarding personal protective equipment (PPE), are available to contractors. Additionally, the website provides guidance on hazard recognition and clarifies the various risks of exposure. OSHA also lists references to the state OSHA-approved plans. State governments are playing a very significant role in the effort to control the spread of COVID-19; employers need to understand additional regulations and work requirements that may be in place.

Navigating the Delicate Balance

Contractors are both the beneficiaries of being essential businesses while also remaining at risk for providing healthy work environments for employees. As we navigate these unprecedented times in the modern era, CRI is dedicated to ensuring businesses have the information needed to make the best of available options. Our professionals are available to address the difficult questions certain to arise.

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