What We Know Now
Respirator Protection Program
Labor & Industries (L&I) is citing long term care communities for neither having proper face masks nor the necessary fit testing in place for this equipment. Complicating the issue, L&I has not provided clear messaging to explain what is required to adequately mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for employees.
Under the State of Washington Safety and Health codes and guidelines, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees are protected from injuries and illnesses. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is an even greater emphasis on this as employees and residents are both at risk for contracting the illness. Given the inspections, citations and risk, we want to make sure you have the information and resources you need.
WHCA and ERNwest have collaborated in the development of a Respiratory Protection Program. When followed, this program will help protect workers and residents from contracting the virus. The program provides all the information needed by any WHCA healthcare facility in the State of Washington when purchasing, inspecting, training, medically evaluating, fit testing, donning and doffing, and disposing of face masks.
Please use this program as a template for creating a policy in your communities regarding the use and fit of face masks. Please reach out to your ERNwest Loss Control Team with any questions or concerns regarding this program or L&I requirements. Download the WHCA Respirator Protection Program PDF
OSHA Recordkeeping Update:
Under normal circumstances, after we completed the E-Reporting by March 2, we would be finished with the OSHA Recordkeeping for the year. However, the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak has many people seeking help with questions related to entries on the OSHA Form 300 and when to record an illness related to the disease. Read the news release about the interim guidance for enforcing OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements.
OSHA’s recordkeeping rules apply only to injuries or illnesses. Illnesses include both acute and chronic illnesses, such as, but not limited to, skin disease, respiratory disorder, or poisoning. OSHA has essentially excluded cases of the common cold or the seasonal flu from coverage but has now determined that confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be considered a recordable illness under the rule. Thus, if an employee simply comes into work with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, but not a confirmed diagnosis, the recordability analysis would not be triggered.
When making a determination of work-relatedness for recordkeeping purposes, the employer’s assessment should consider the work environment itself, the type of work performed, the risk of person-to-person transmission given the work environment, and other factors such as community spread. Healthcare work environments—where job activities are more likely to result in person-to-person exposure—would present a more likely scenario of work-relatedness than non-healthcare settings. Because each work environment is different, employers must conduct an individualized assessment when a confirmed case of the COVID-19 surfaces. Get more information on the OSHA Recordkeeping rules for COVID-19.
L&I Pandemic Emergency Rules
Washington businesses that decide to open or operate in direct violation of Gov. Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order may be cited and fined for unsafe workplace conditions under emergency rules filed by L&I.
The emergency rules, enacted at the direction of the Governor, take effect immediately. They give L&I the authority to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is purposely defying the phased-in approach and, as a result, putting their workers at risk. Read the L&I May Bulletin for more information.
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.
–Time-Loss Compensation Benefits
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.
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 Exposure and Claims
Please download the following guide that will provide information on how to exposure has occurred and employees are sent home for quarantine. This information could change in the future and we will keep you updated. COVID-19 and L&I (PDF)
COVID-19 Online Resources
Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal, but they are not safe. Learn more
National Heat Stroke Awareness Month
The human body is normally able to regulate its temperature through sweating, until it is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can escalate rapidly, leading to delirium, organ damage and even death. Find out more about heat stroke.
Are you hydrated?
Urine color says a lot about your hydration status. Generally, the lighter the color, the more hydrated you are. Learn more
Much of the focus we’ve had on developing and implementing our community Safety programs has been sidetracked due to emphasis on the COVID-19 outbreak. ERNwest is very aware of the hardships that have been created and is aware that many of our communities are operating with minimal staffing as the virus takes its’ toll across the healthcare industry.
With this in mind, it is also important that we maintain focus around workplace incidents and safety issues that may surface. It’s up to leadership teams in every workplace to be aware of incidents and accident trends that may be developing due to a lack of training and/or supervision.
We are confident that we can help bring an end to the coronavirus outbreak we’re living with right now by providing reminders of the importance of Safety and Health programs. ERNwest has these Safety programs and information available at no additional cost to WHCA Retro members. Additionally, Loss Control staff are available to work with any healthcare facility to improve their safety performances. Use the links below to access a wealth of Safety information.
WHCA Pays You Back!
The association, through the Retro program, will reimburse up to $2,500 per year when you buy equipment needed to keep your staff working safely. Access the Safety Rebate Form for a complete list of covered items and for instructions to get started! Download the 2019-2020 Safety Rebate Form PDF
WHCA Safety Resources
Access WHCA and general safety resources. Learn more.
Select the dates below for more information about ERNwest-specific trainings and to register.
View a list of all ERNwest training
Administrator / Executive Director Training
Whether you are new to the Washington Health Care Association (WHCA), new to Retro, new to your position or just have questions, you’ll find helpful information about the benefits and requirements of WHCA Retro membership and how ERNwest can help you succeed with Washington Workers’ Compensation. | Welcome to WHCA Retro
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
WHCA Retro Questions?
Stephanie Scheurich, WHCA Group Manager (253) 237-0837 | SScheurich@ernwest.com
WHCA Safety Questions?
Oscar Granger (253) 237-0819 | OGranger@ernwest.com
Darrell Beaman (Central/Eastern WA) (253) 237-0831 | DBeaman@ernwest.com