Guidance about keeping employees safe as they come back to office
As a commercial insurance risk adviser for 31 years, I have seen a lot go on in the world of insurance. However, when COVID-19 hit, my team and I had to be more accessible than ever before as our world navigated these unchartered territories. We have seen firsthand how all industries have been impacted — especially bars, restaurants, hospitality and entertainment venues. When the state of Indiana gradually allowed businesses to reopen, the one question clients asked frequently was “How do businesses move forward?”
First and foremost, we know that all businesses are unique, so reopening plans are going to vary by industry. From a workers’ compensation perspective, it is imperative that all businesses implement a safe environment for employees to return to work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled a variety of best practices businesses can use, such as 6-feet separation, installing plexiglass protective barriers and requiring employees to wear face masks. Daily cleaning measures in high-trafficked areas also are encouraged during this time.
In addition to implementing safety precautions, many also are concerned about how to react if COVID-19 infects their employees. With cases still being reported, it is hard to determine liability and where someone may have gotten ill with the coronavirus. However, one piece of advice I can offer is to immediately report to your workers’ compensation insurance provider. They are the best practitioners to help determine if the claim is covered or not under workers’ compensation.
You also might be wondering if your business could be held liable from a general liability standpoint for third-party claimants related to COVID-19. Once again, determining where the claimant may have been infected has become extremely difficult to prove. However, depending on the implementation of best practices for COVID-19 could be one of the determining factors as you maneuver through the claim process. If an incident or allegation is made against the business, it is strongly recommended the claim be reported to your general liability insurance provider. The insurer will thoroughly investigate to determine coverage under the terms and conditions of the policy in force. If a lawsuit is filed against the business, the insurer should provide defense during the period of investigation as they determine liability.
As we navigate this new “normal,” many companies have rolled out some great COVID-19 automation resources for businesses to use during this time. For example, Appian Corp. unveiled a workforce safety solution app that helps deliver a safe and compliant transition back to work. Before arriving at work each day, employees are required to answer a series of confidential health questions. If their health is a concern that day, HR representatives will be informed, and the employee will be required to stay home.
Another best practice I would recommend implementing is requiring clients, customers and vendors to fill out health questionnaires once they arrive at your place of business. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard to detect where people might have become infected with COVID-19. However, it is important to have documents in place if a workers’ compensation coronavirus claim should occur at your workplace.
Overall, there is a lot of information to process as we continue to adapt to this global pandemic. However, as your business ramps back up to full operations, I would encourage you to consult with your commercial risk advisers to address the risk exposures that may be unique to your business operations to ensure that protocols are in place to create a safe work environment. These are tough waters to navigate, but I have no doubt that Northwest Indiana will return stronger than ever before.