What We Know Now
Now that Washington has a plan to phase into reopening, there are a few things that businesses need to do to prepare, whether you are reopening or increasing staff levels.
- Focus on Safety training. With employees having been out of the workforce for a few months, they likely have forgotten some previous training. We encourage businesses to treat all returning employees as “New Hires.” Re-train them on all safety hazards on the job site and policies and procedures for performing their jobs safely.
- Be sure to touch on social distance training/requirements and the use of all required PPE/social distancing efforts, so employees can return safely to the job site.
- If you have an employee that is currently off work, but on an open Workers’ Compensation claim; consider bringing them back to work. Most likely they are receiving time-loss benefits that are driving up your rates and driving down your refunds.
- When returning an employee to work under Workers’ Compensation, be sure to offer them reasonably continuous modified-duty work. Your ERNwest claims manager can help you with this. By using reasonably continuous language in your job offer, you will be protecting your business from the risk of future time loss if things were to take a turn for the worse, causing shut-downs and layoffs again.
COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation
–Benefits from Labor and Industries
At this point L&I will only provide benefits to healthcare workers and first responders during the time they are quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 on the job. If a first responder or health care provider then tests positive, time loss and medical expenses will be paid like a normal claim. L&I has determined that COVID-19 claims will not impact rates or retro refunds, for more information please see the FAQ link in the section below.
–Frequently Asked Questions Answered
In response to questions from employers and their representatives, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has made certain policy decisions to provide some financial relief from the impact of allowed COVID-19 claims to state-funded employers. These decisions are outlined in a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) format. We also want you to be aware of premium reporting requirements under certain circumstances such as when a business has been closed as a result of the pandemic, yet the employer is continuing to pay their workers. And we’ve clarified that injured workers whose temporary, light duty ends are entitled to time-loss compensation. If you have any questions, please contact your account manager or retrospective rating representative.
FAQ / Answers for employers with workers’ compensation insurance through L&I
The Washington State Employment Security Department has put together a helpful visual for employers that give an overview of benefits. COVID-19 Scenarios and Benefits
For healthcare-related incidents or if your employees worked at a site where they are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 (e.g. a HVAC company working in a hospital):
- L&I will pay the employee “time loss” for a quarantine period of up to 14 days.
NOTE: The quarantine time loss will not be charged to you as an employer. This is important to companies that have a discounted workers’ compensation rate.
- If the employee tests positive, L&I will allow the claim.
L&I has confirmed, workers who were on temporary light-duty work but are now off due to business closures are eligible for time-loss compensation benefits through L&I. If you have worked with your ERNwest claims manager to offer a reasonable, continuous job rather than a temporary job, you may be protected; but as you can imagine, L&I’s policy has resulted in a drastic increase in benefits being paid through the workers’ compensation system.
There are several federal stimulus programs available to keep workers on the payroll. Utilizing these programs can help ensure that your employees are cared for during this uncertain time, and may also provide future savings in your L&I premiums if you can utilize a kept-on-salary strategy for workers who are otherwise eligible for time-loss compensation benefits. Ideally, the programs will keep your workforce intact and help you avoid an increase in the future cost of your workers’ comp premiums. The Master Builders Association has created a website that includes information on the types of programs available, and instructions for applying. We encourage you to visit their site for more information on the programs available at www.mbakscovid19.org.
If you have any questions about the financial impact of a specific claim, please contact your ERNwest Claims Manager.
–Furloughs and Layoffs
For those companies that may be considering furloughs or layoffs, there are three quick items to consider:
- Have each employee fill out an exit questionnaire so you can document the employee’s physical health at the time of separation.
Download the exit questionnaire.
- Let ERNwest know if you are planning a lay off or furlough and if you are planning on laying off an employee on light-duty. NOTE: The good news is, if you followed ERNwest’s practices and offered a reasonably continuous job at the wage during the time of injury and you are doing a larger layoff (not just those on light-duty), these employees are unlikely to receive time loss.
- This is an uncomfortable time for everyone. Do everything in your power to care for your employees. It is everyone’s hope that sometime soon they will return to the workforce and you want your employees back healthy and strong.
–L&I Offering Employers Grace Period to Pay Workers’ Comp Premiums
L&I is providing emergency relief to help employers struggling to pay their workers’ compensation premiums during the coronavirus outbreak. It is offering a grace period for premium payments, along with payment plans for employers facing financial difficulties during the pandemic. Under this new offer, employers can request for their payment to be deferred for up to 90 days or can ask for a 90-day payment plan. Either way, the delayed payments will be penalty- and interest-free.
The agency wants to make sure businesses know about and consider taking advantage of this Employer Assistance Program.
“This is clearly a hard time for everyone. And restrictions and closures are making it very tough for businesses to make financial ends meet,” said Vickie Kennedy, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Insurance Services. “We’re trying to help by allowing employers to delay or spread out their payments at no additional cost to them. This will give businesses more time and allow them to stay in good standing.”
Payments for the first quarter of 2020 are due no later than April 30. To be eligible for this coronavirus-related assistance, employers must contact their L&I account manager if they know they won’t be able to make their quarterly premium payment. Account managers are available by phone at 360-902-4817.
Once employers are approved for the assistance program, L&I will waive late penalties and interest charges as long as qualifying businesses pay their premiums within 90 days. In some cases, the payment plan can be renegotiated if a business goes deeper into financial distress.
As part of the agreement, businesses must file their quarterly report on time, which is no later than April 30, 2020. L&I regional offices are closed to walk-in visits because of the outbreak, however, quarterly reports can be filed online through QuickFile.
For additional services, L&I customers can find the phone numbers for offices in local communities online or call the L&I Office of Information and Assistance at 360-902-5800.
COVID-19 and Construction Guide
Download this guide containing prevention tips, protocols for builders, workplace precautions and OSHA record-keeping information.
Additional updates and resources on Covid-19 can be found on the MBAKS website
DOSH Stay at Home Directive
On April 7th, 2020, the L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) released the General Coronavirus Prevention Under Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order. This Directive provides enforcement guidance when evaluating workplace implementation of social distancing, sanitation and sick employee practices as required under the Governor’s Proclamation: Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order. Download the DOSH Directive to read the full scope and application of this order.
DOSH Compliance Inspections
L&I DOSH has begun to respond to safety related COVID-19 workplace employee complaints. A healthcare community recently received a DOSH compliance letter wherein the complainant alleged he/she was working without the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) that would protect him/her from errant exposure to the virus.
This is a standard format letter that DOSH sends to address when there has been no serious accident or incident and they are seeking a timely response of corrective actions made to mitigate the complaint. The recipient of the letter is also instructed to post the letter from DOSH in a place where all employees can see it, for a period of a minimum of three days.
Any employer that receives a letter from DOSH must pay attention to the instructions within the letter and to the timeframes noted. While a compliance inspection of the property is not imminent, failure to comply with the provisions in the letter may result in a visit from the compliance inspector.
Whether your business is identified as an essential business or not, if the letter arrives in your mail, pay strict attention to the contents of the letter. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact John Sevier, ERNwest Safety and Loss Control Manager at 253.300.6399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
June is National Safety Month
Given the current state of the world, the month will look a little different than past years. Instead of focusing on a single topic each week, the National Safety Council will provide real-time, relevant resources on a variety of topics for keeping workers safe in our new normal. Go to the National Safety Council website for more information.
Emergency Preparedness During
National Safety Month
It’s always important to take a proactive approach to safety in the workplace, but sometimes an emergency can arise at a moment’s notice. Taking some time to plan before an incident takes place can help you act quickly and ensure the safety of yourself and your co-workers. And, because the National Safety Council organizes National Safety Month every June, it’s a great time to review emergency preparedness in various workplace settings. Ensure you are ready for any emergency. Find more emergency response resources at Ready.gov/plan.
Access Toolbox Tips and general safety resources. Learn more.
GRIP Live Training
These GRIP-specific trainings benefit new members or members who would like to review the content. Click on the dates below for more information about the training and to register. *These trainings have been moved to a webinar.
ERNwest Webinar Training
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Remember to report all incidents on the ERNwest website so that your claims manager is aware and can help guide you through the process. | ERNwest.com/report-an-incident
Per the Governor’s Stay Home and Stay Safe Order, MBAKS offices are closed through May 31 to keep staff members safe. Staff are well-equipped to be productive on your behalf from remote locations and can be reached via phone or email. Events and class cancellations are noted on the MBAKS Events Calendar.
GRIP Retro Questions?
Trish Leimbach, GRIP Group Manager | (253) 343-0153 | TLeimbach@ernwest.com
GRIP Safety Questions?
John Sevier, GRIP Safety Manager | (253) 300-6399 | email@example.com