EPIC Risk Advisory Bulletin
Volume 1, Issue 11
The global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic remains both dynamic and fluid. We continue to see unprecedented disruptions at home and abroad. In this issue, we take a focused look at:
- General Information on Coronavirus
- Supply Chain and Business Risks
- Regional Supply Chain for Medical Equipment
- Insurance Products and Coverage Information
- Rising Drone Deliveries Across America
- Coronavirus Considerations for the Construction Industry
- Trucking Industry Updates
- Immunity Debate for Healthcare Organizations
- Legislation and Litigation Roundup
- Human Resources and Employee Benefits
- OSHA-Approved Return to Work Plans
- New NYCIRB Classification Codes for Telecommuters
- Employee Benefits Insights
Return to Work Survey
As discussions begin on reintegrating employees into the workforce, what changes are you considering, and how have you been able to keep employees engaged while sheltering in place?
How has the pandemic changed your approach to this year’s open enrollment, and what do you think will be your biggest challenges?
Onboarding & Offboarding
Have you considered any adjustments to your onboarding process, and have you utilized an offboarding process for employees who have been laid off or are furloughed?
General Information on Coronavirus
As time progresses, an understanding of the virus and efforts toward accurate testing and an eventual vaccine continue. With states and localities making decisions to open at various times and in differing ways, it is more important than ever to be informed of what particular states and counties are recommending.
Visit this page from USA.gov to search for a specific state and link to its department of health: www.usa.gov/state-health
The best sources overall for timely information on the coronavirus pandemic remain the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
EPIC has also compiled resources to aid in understanding the impact of the pandemic on employers, workforces and the management of risk.
Supply Chain and Business Risks
Northeast States Form Regional Supply Chain for Medical Equipment
Governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island announced a multi-state agreement to form a new regional supply chain to prioritize the delivery of medical equipment.
State leaders agreed to identify regional needs and work together to obtain critical items such as PPE, sanitizer, ventilators, masks and medical supplies in a way that speeds access and reduces cost. Collectively, the states will review policies on supplies needed for first responders, nonprofit organizations and private sector groups.
It is hoped that these efforts will counteract increased costs of essential items created by tight competition and soaring demand.
The states will also work to find suppliers within the northeast region or country at large that are able to meet the region’s demand for these supplies over the course of the next three months.
Insurance Products & Coverage
Drone Deliveries on the Rise Across America
Risks associated with drones are nothing new. Back in 2015 drones were beginning to be used to deliver medical supplies to a clinic, and questions were raised as to how aviation insurance coverage would respond. Hackers and unintentional accidents could cause property damage and invasion of privacy, and it was unclear how insurance would respond.
The use of unmanned drones has since forged ahead in various capacities, with some executions being embraced and others being rejected. A police department in Connecticut tested “pandemic drones” for the purposes of enforcing social distancing and monitoring the spread of coronavirus. While the department said it would make the data it captured anonymous, public outcry against the initiative meant it never really got off the ground. In New Jersey and California, police have been successful in using drones to reinforce shelter at home orders, despite privacy concerns.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, an aerial delivery company, Matternet, has been working with a division of WakeMed Health & Hospitals to have drones pick up lab samples from one end of WakeMed’s facilities and deliver them to a hospital at the other end of its campus. In Florida, UPS and CVS have announced that they will begin delivering prescriptions by Matternet drones to customers’ homes.
Within the insurance industry, companies have long found drones helpful in handling claims for catastrophic situations, where they can provide a clear view of damage without endangering adjusters, in a relatively short amount of time. These varied examples show drones are not only here to stay, but their mainstream use may be accelerated by coronavirus.
Indeed, drones could help the country weather the coronavirus crisis by improving the movement of goods amidst shelter-at-home and social distancing directives. As drones become a more readily available delivery option for small businesses, it will be important for business owners to discuss drone insurance coverage options with their brokers. If utilizing drones is something your business is considering, reach out to your EPIC broker for more information about coverage options.
Coronavirus Considerations for the Construction Industry
While coronavirus has shut down many parts of the economy, construction is not one of them. Across America construction has, for the most part, been deemed an essential activity and has continued under increased health and safety precautions. As parts of the country reopen and loosen restrictions, activity in the construction sector will likely increase. In New York, for example, more than 5,000 new construction projects have reopened.
As work ramps up, it will likely look very different than it did before the pandemic crisis took hold. Temperature checks are routinely performed on construction workers at the start of every shift. Many laborers are wearing masks while working and during breaks. OSHA has issued guidance specifically for the construction industry on working safely during the coronavirus. Among the guidelines offered are the following:
- Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and direct employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet, where possible.
- Practice social distancing inside of trailers.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Keep in-person meetings, including toolbox talks and safety meetings, as short as possible; limit the number of attendees; and use social distancing practices.
- Clean and disinfect portable jobsite toilets regularly.
- Fill hand sanitizer dispensers regularly.
OSHA is also encouraging workers not to share tools and when it cannot be avoided, workers should be instructed to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after each use.
In an industry that prizes safety, these measures can help work resume to full capacity without incident.
Trucking Industry Update: Research Findings, Masks, Drivers Licenses and ATA Survey
The American Transportation Research Institute and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association Foundation released a new report detailing the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on trucking operations, deliveries, travel times, detention, truck parking and other aspects of the trucking industry.
Key insights from the report include the following:
- Long-haul trips are down considerably as container imports at ports dried up. Local trips of less than 100 miles are up considerably.
- While transport of medical devices, perishable foods and paper products was up, nearly 50 percent of respondents described freight levels as somewhat or much lower.
- More than 40 percent of respondents said truck parking was no worse since the onset of the pandemic, but larger trucking fleets did express difficulty finding parking spots.
- While driver detention did not change, owner-operators and small fleets experienced worse detention delays than larger fleets.
- Almost 80 percent of owner-operators and small fleets have no plan in place for managing operations during natural disasters.
The report is free to access and contains recommendations on strategies trucking companies should consider for future large scale disruptions, such as the one currently being experienced. Download the report online on American Transportation Research Institute’s website at: truckingresearch.org
- Despite the news that premium rates on renewals are rising, markets are shrinking, and insurers are becoming more selective, there was some good news for the trucking industry when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it will distribute one million protective masks to CMV drivers. The masks were provided by FEMA and can be obtained at distribution locations, which are posted on FMCSA’s website.
- The AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) has released consolidated information on how motor vehicle administrations are handling driver licensing and vehicle registration amidst stay-at-home orders. A helpful PDF on its website lists protocols for DMVs in every state, and contains links to access jurisdiction websites for more information. Visit AAMVA’s website to access the PDF, by clicking the link in the body content that says “click here.”
- The American Trucking Association is seeking data that captures the impact of coronavirus on the trucking industry and is conducting a survey soliciting input from motor carriers, private carriers, suppliers and other allied companies. Insights gained from the survey will support the Association’s advocacy efforts. Responses are confidential and will only be used in aggregate form. Take the survey on ATA’s website.
Debate Rages Over Immunity for Healthcare Organizations
Since the New York State Nurses Association sued the New York Department of Health and two hospital systems on April 20, more nurses unions have followed suit. The Ohio Nurses Association filed a complaint with OSHA alleging hazardous conditions at a state medical center.
On the other side of the debate, nursing homes have lobbied California Governor Gavin Newsome for immunity from lawsuits over the coronavirus outbreak. The issue has raised to the level of the United States Congress, as House and Senate Republicans work to include immunity protections for healthcare organizations in the next round of stimulus aid.
Democrats are pushing back, stating immunity protections will put workers and patients at risk. As the two sides hammer out a solution, it is clear that this issue requires continued monitoring for healthcare organizations as well as workers unions.
Legislation and Litigation Roundup
The passage of another week has brought forth more legislation from city, county and state governmental bodies, as well as litigation. Here is a rundown of recent news stories of interest.
News of Note:
- Lawmakers Continue to Push Essential Worker Bills, Business Insurance, May 5
- 3M Wins Injunction Against Mask Seller Accused of Price Gouging, Reuters, May 5
- D.C. to Consider Expanding Business Interruption Insurance Policies to Cover Coronavirus, Washington Business Journal, Apr 30
- Class-Action Lawsuit Joins Growing Number Over Business Interruption Insurance Denials Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Wisconsin State Journal, Apr 30
- Ohio Class-Action Lawsuit Argues Business-Interruption Insurance Should Cover Coronavirus-Related Losses for Restaurants, CityBeat, Apr 29
- Big Insurers Face Fresh Coronavirus Claim Threat From UK Hospitality, New York Times, Apr 29
HR & Employee Benefits Insights
22 States Have OSHA-Approved Plans for Returning to Work
As some states are getting ready to reopen businesses, owners have been assessing their operations, planning to bring employees back to work and ensuring a healthy and safe workplace. Numerous resources from the CDC, OSHA as well as state and local agencies, exist to help businesses compile their plans.
Some states require businesses to create coronavirus preparedness plans as a prerequisite for opening. It is expected that eventually all states, as well as OSHA, will require that these plans to be in place. For now, 22 state plans have been established with OSHA. Businesses should check these plans as they compile their own back to work procedures.
Analyzing whether or not existing insurance policies may provide coverage for losses is a critical early step in creating a plan. Business interruption, commercial general liability, medical malpractice, property, workers compensation, D&O and E&O policies all may potentially provide coverage and should be examined within the context of coronavirus.
Reach out to your EPIC service team members with specific concerns and questions.
New Classification Code for Telecommuters From NYCIRB
The New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board (NYCIRB) has released a new classification code for telecommuter reassigned employees. The move means that employers who are paying employees sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic will pay a less expensive rate for Workers Compensation insurance.
Workers Compensation rating rules require premiums to be calculated based on the amount of the employer’s payroll. While idled employees remain on the payroll, they have no exposure to being injured on the job. This results in an employer paying insurance premiums for a non-existent risk.
The NYCIRB announced that it has filed and received approval from the New York State Department of Financial Services for a new classification – code 8873, Telecommuter Reassigned Employees. According to the announcement, this classification applies “to the payroll of employees who, during New York’s stay-at-home order related to the COVID-19 pandemic (and future stay-at-home orders), are reassigned to either (a) not perform any work duties (idle), or (b) perform clerical work duties at home. The loss cost rate for Classification 8873 will mirror the rate for Classification 8810 (clerical office employees). Further, this provision is applicable at the start of New York’s stay-at-home order and for up to 30 days after its conclusion.”
The rule change applies to all new and renewal policies effective May 1, 2020, as well as to all in-force policies as of March 16, 2020. Employers should consider how much of its payroll to reassign to the new classification in light of the announcement.
For assistance with this matter, contact your EPIC broker.
Employee Benefits Insights
EPIC’s employee benefits leaders have written numerous articles on matters related to coronavirus and employee benefits, all of which are available on EPIC’s website. Those articles include:
- Bay Area Counties Lift Some Construction Restrictions, May 5
- Workers’ Compensation Webinar Series Set for June 3, May 5
- If COBRA Wasn’t Confusing Enough, the White House is Going to Mix it up for You, May 4
- EBSA Issues New Model COBRA Notices and Guidance, May 1
- DOL Updates Required FFCRA Poster and FAQs, May 1
- IRS Extends Deadline for 2019 Health Savings Account Contributions, May 1
- Feds Extend Deadlines for Certain Plan Filings, May 1
- The Return of Fear-Mongering Consulting, April 30
- COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation, April 29
- Departments Extend Certain Benefit Election and Notice Dates, Offer Relaxed Disclosure Rules, April 29
Our understanding of coronavirus and its impact around the world continues to evolve at a rapid pace. This newsletter briefly touches on issues that businesses may want to consider as they approach their response to novel coronavirus. More topics will be considered in future issues as our understanding of the virus and its impact continues to evolve. Please reach out to your EPIC broker for more information.
For all of EPIC’s coronavirus coverage, visit epicbrokers.com/coronavirus
Disclaimer: This has been provided as an informational resource for EPIC clients and business partners. It is intended to provide general guidance on potential exposures and is not intended to provide medical advice or address medical concerns or specific risk circumstances. Due to the dynamic nature of infectious diseases, EPIC cannot be held liable for the guidance provided. We strongly encourage readers to seek additional safety, medical and epidemiological information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Regarding insurance coverage questions, whether coverage applies or a policy will respond to any risk or circumstance is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the policies and contracts at issue and underwriter determinations.
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