EPIC Risk Advisory Bulletin
Volume 1, Issue 12
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
- Use Caution! MVR Accuracy During the Pandemic
- Insurance Products and Coverage Information
- Broadway, Hollywood Eye Plans for a Return to Normalcy
- Legislation and Litigation Roundup
- Human Resources and Employee Benefits
- When Work Resumes, Offices and Duties May Look Different
- EEOC Expands Guidance for Workplaces
- New Challenges in Cleaning and Sanitizing Guidance from the CDC
- Employee Benefits Insights
How has the pandemic changed your approach to this year’s open enrollment, and what do you think will be your biggest challenges?
Has your new work environment impacted your productivity and connection with your colleagues, and do you see your organization moving toward more electronic/digital communication going forward?
Assessing Financial Risk
Do you have the ability to assess financial risk to your health and welfare plans as a result of the pandemic, and what changes have you made related to cost-sharing and budgeting for medical and prescription drug expenses?
General Information on Coronavirus
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 continues to compile resources to aid in understanding the impact of the pandemic on employers, their workforces and the management of risk.
Supply Chain and Business Risks
Use Caution! MVR Accuracy During the Pandemic
In March, State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) throughout the U.S. altered or ceased customer-facing services in response to the pandemic. Several states extended license expiration dates so that residents could legally drive and possess proof of identity during this emergency period while SDLAs are closed. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also eased the requirements for SDLAs as respects adding violations to the Motor Vehicle Records (MVRs) of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers. This means that Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) are not being downgraded during this time due to a lapse in medical certification.
Licensing agencies are normally required to add convictions and disqualifications to drivers’ records within ten days; however, they have a temporary reprieve from the reporting requirement until late September. As a result, when a MVR is pulled, it may reflect outdated history, as a driver may have been disqualified but the violation information may not appear for weeks or months.
No single solution will address this concern, but a good fleet management program may help address this issue and should include the following considerations.
- Be sure that policies clearly indicate that current drivers and applicants are required to report all moving violation convictions, suspensions, revocations, denials and disqualifications to management.
- If feasible, conduct annual driver MVR reviews (required every twelve months) when the SDLA is current on posting violations to MVRs. Visit usa.gov/motor-vehicle-services to select the state or territory, then click “GO” to view operational status.
- Request new MVRs when the SDLA is back to normal operations to replace any MVRs that were obtained during the shutdown.
- Practice excellent recordkeeping to document compliance efforts.
EPIC recommends a standards review to ensure this risk is adequately addressed. For assistance in reviewing driver qualification requirements, our Transportation & Logistics risk control team is here to help.
Insurance Products & Coverage
Broadway, Hollywood Eye Plans for a Return to Normalcy
Will attending a Broadway play, seeing a live concert or watching a movie on the big screen be a thing of the past? Although stages, concert venues and theaters remain shuttered across much of the country, plans to reopen are slowly emerging. One producer believes theater doors could remain closed into 2021.
Like so many other things in life, when live entertainment, sporting events, and even movie screenings return, they could look very different.
Broadway venues are approaching their return carefully and working their way through a number of considerations. Keeping every other seat empty; discontinuing bar service and intermissions; adding exits and ushers; performing temperature checks; and deep cleaning between shows are all being weighed. The Actors’ Equity Association has even hired the former OSHA leader under President Obama to advise on how much space to add to dressing rooms; which fabrics to use for costumes; how to clean frequently touched props and more.
Hollywood is applying the same thought process to movie and television production work. Unlike theater, production companies could theoretically screen staff and talent at the start of a production for coronavirus, and then isolate them in a safe filming environment until production is complete. Even then, sets, vehicles and equipment would need to be properly cleansed daily, schedule delays would have to be anticipated and accommodated, and the health of all involved would need to be continually monitored.
From an insurance perspective, most contingency policies are written without communicable disease protection, so venue operators are shouldering the risk themselves. When the added costs of operating at one-third capacity and without bar service are factored in, many are hesitant to open until pre-coronavirus operational standards can be resumed.
EPIC’s Global Entertainment Leader Christine Sadofsky believes new markets will need to enter the industry to see coverage return. “It will take new markets with capital and resources to step up and fill the gaps created by this pandemic,” she says. “When the new markets start providing protection, existing insurers will eventually begin offering coverage and a new market, akin to Terrorism Risk Insurance, which formed in the wake of 9/11, will emerge. In other places around the world, some governments are looking into creating an insurance pool to reinsure the risk. If that happens, those markets would return sooner than ones without such a resource in place.”
Sadofsky notes that while pandemic insurance exists, it currently excludes coronavirus, making the potential second and third waves of the pandemic continuing threats to the resumption of live events. While contract protection insurance is available in some situations, it doesn’t solve the widespread problem of the lack of coverage currently facing the entertainment industry.
“This was a truly unforeseen risk,” she says. “I personally sit with clients each renewal period and brainstorm what could potentially shut down their business and in all those conversations, no one saw the potential for an event that could shut down an entire country or multiple countries simultaneously.”
Still, Sadofsky remains optimistic.
“This has shown us that we can and will work around any challenge. My hat goes off to insurers who have stepped up and created forgiveness programs to help their clients through some very challenging times. Not all of the response from the industry was mandated and I was proud to see that.”
If you have questions about your event or entertainment coverage, contact your EPIC broker.
Property Insurance Market Q2 Update
Entering 2020, underwriters worked to maintain a firming trend within the market and property renewals saw average rate increases in the following categories:
- Accounts with no losses or CAT exposure: 5% – 20% increases
- Accounts with CAT exposure: 10% – 40% increases
- Accounts with losses and CAT exposure: 20% – 50+% increases
The coronavirus pandemic quickly transformed a firming market into a hard market. It may take months, or even years, to determine how property policies will respond to physical damage and business interruption claims resulting from coronavirus. In the meantime, it is already having an effect on renewals in the following ways:
- Contamination exclusions are tightening
- Specific exclusions for communicable disease are being added
- Limits for policies that do provide some coverage are being significantly lowered
Additionally, the renewal process is taking much longer as underwriters and modelers conduct their work remotely; consultation between brokers and clients is essential. Reach out to an EPIC broker for more information.
Read the full Q2 Property Market Update
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:
- Insurers Don’t Need to Pay Coronavirus Business Interruption Claims: Treasury, Fox Business, May 12
- COVID-19 Coverage for Uninsured is Underway, But More is Needed, AMA, May 11
- Reopening the Coronavirus-Era Office: One-Person Elevators, No Cafeterias, Wall Street Journal, May 11
- How Deere, Caterpillar Kept Plants Running During Coronavirus Outbreak, Reuters, May 7
- Broker M&A Market ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Amid Pandemic, Insurance Business Mag, May 7
- Loss Prevention Concerns Ship Owners, Insurers, Business Insurance, May 6
- Insurers Want Delay in COVID-19 Business Interruption Coverage MDL, Reuters, May 6
- Suit Over Worker Safety at Smithfield Pork Plant Dismissed, Business Insurance, May 6
- Push to Expand COVID-19 Business Interruption Coverage Fails in D.C., Washington Business Journal, May 5
HR & Employee Benefits Insights
When Work Resumes, Offices and Duties May Look Different
Before the coronavirus crisis hit, 40 percent of American workers were employed in occupations that potentially could be performed remotely, according to Pew Research Center. This left 60 percent of workers in jobs that required either in-person interaction or work to be performed in a setting outside the home.
In a survey in late March, Pew found that 40 percent of adults surveyed were, in fact, working from home. As states reopen, it will be interesting to see how many of those workers continue to work from home. Those who do return to a workplace outside of their home may find an alien landscape awaiting them.
Office space had been trending to open concept layouts for more than a decade. Seeking to maximize space and collaboration, many employers built work spaces clustered closely together without partitions between desks, or no walls between areas. Now, employers are redesigning workplaces to accommodate social distancing guidelines and ensure worker safety while the threat of coronavirus continues.
Yahoo Finance reports companies are buying up six-foot long desks, permanent wall dividers, cubicles and plastic sheets to separate employees’ workspaces from one another. Other items being considered include social distancing sensors, and cameras to track employee movements and encourage appropriate distancing.
Retail establishments will look different for workers and customers as well. One way walkways, tape marking off six-foot spaces, visible signage encouraging social distancing and respiratory etiquette, as well as a requirement to wear masks in public, are all now or will soon be standard features of public life.
As employers rightly prioritize employee and public safety, one thing is clear – work will likely look and feel very different in the coming months.
EEOC Expanded Guidance for Workplaces
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its document on May 7, 2020, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” It indicates that employers cannot prevent employees from returning to work solely because they have a disability that may put them at a higher risk for developing severe complications from the coronavirus. Specifically, the EEOC guidance states the following: “…if the employee does not request a reasonable accommodation, the ADA does not mandate that the employer take action.”
If the employer is concerned about the employee’s health being jeopardized upon returning to the workplace, the ADA does not allow the employer to exclude the employee – or take any other adverse action – solely because the employee has a disability that the CDC identifies as potentially placing him or her at “higher risk for severe illness” if he or she gets coronavirus. Under the ADA, such action is not allowed unless the employee’s disability poses a “direct threat” to his or her health that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.
New Challenges in Cleaning and Sanitizing Offices Safely
The coronavirus outbreak has created the need for more frequent cleanings with disinfectant, especially on surfaces throughout offices and workplaces. While necessary, this situation may give rise to new challenges such as whether a higher usage of chemical cleaning products nullifies OSHA’s consumer exception within its Hazard Communication (HazCom) standard. This exception considers whether a chemical is being used within normal consumer ranges, as follows:
“Any consumer product or hazardous substance, as those terms are defined in the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2051 et seq.) and Federal Hazardous Substances Act (15 U.S.C. 1261 et seq.) respectively, where the employer can show that it is used in the workplace for the purpose intended by the chemical manufacturer or importer of the product, and the use results in a duration and frequency of exposure which is not greater than the range of exposures that could reasonably be experienced by consumers when used for the purpose intended;” OSHA Hazard Communication Standard
Companies enhancing cleaning and disinfecting efforts could find themselves subject to OSHA’s HazCom standard. Facilities not normally subject to HazCom requirements may need to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for any chemicals being used as well as training to employees. This is likely for employers that begin to use household cleaners in a duration and frequency that exposes workers to amounts beyond what a typical consumer would experience. The HazCom standard gives employees the right to know the hazards and identities of the substances they are exposed to in the workplace.
It is particularly important to be aware of any instances where chemicals may be transferred from a larger container to smaller ones in the presence of employees, as this requires special precautions including the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.
For more information or assistance related to preparing a safe workplace, please consult 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:
- IRS Relaxes Section 125 Election Change Rules, Expands Grace Periods and Carryovers, May 12
- Coronavirus & Workplace Well-being: Supporting Emotional Health, May 11
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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