Employee Safety Concerns Challenge Office Reopenings During COVID-19
As the citizens of Massachusetts gradually adjust to the new normal, companies are cautiously resuming operations. The bad news is that the “new normal” has come with lots of special conditions for businesses that intend to resume in-person operations. For instance, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires companies to comply with rules such as social distancing, limiting occupancy, sophisticated cleaning, and operational modifications. So far, these measures have proved to be hectic for most businesses in MA, and many of them may face lawsuits due to non-compliance.
Because employee workplace safety is a major concern for companies in MA, some companies have decided to maintain the work-from-home model to avoid liability issues and keep their workers safe. With only a small portion of the workforce reporting physically to work, compliance should be easier. With this in mind, here is a look at some specific employee safety concerns that relate to COVID and the new regulations that have been put in effect.
As of December 2020, more than 12,900MA residents had succumbed to COVID-19, as reported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Oftentimes these people have been exposed to the virus while at work. Such deaths have compelled some families of the victims to sue the employers for negligence over their COVID-19 safety measures. Despite the safety measures put in place by companies, this trend is likely to continue, according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). This means that there may be more claims from employees infected at the workplace, lawsuits resulting from purported negligence, and worker’s compensation lawsuits.
Some insurance companies may not accept claims resulting from the virus since it is impossible to determine where an employee contracted the virus. This may also cause some legal battles between the employers and insurance providers since worker’s compensation insurance only pays for sicknesses and injuries that occur at the workplace.
Safety Compliance Issues
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises the public to wear masks, maintain social distance, sanitize hands, and stay at home. While such measures are easy for an individual to follow, employers are finding it difficult to implement all of these safety measures effectively at the workplace. Since some companies have many employees and limited space, reconstructing to accommodate social distancing can be non-viable. Additionally, installing new facilities such as no-touch taps and COVID-19 testing equipment may be difficult for some businesses, especially businesses that are experiencing finance-related problems due to COVID-19. Companies that do not meet these safety conditions should be ready to face lawsuits and pay fines to the authorities. If an employee falls sick at the workplace, employers should also brace themselves for lawsuits and claims.
Apart from health safety, data safety is also a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most businesses in MA are requiring testing their employees for COVID-19 before allowing them back to work. During the testing process, the employee gives out personal information such as demographics, medical history, and diagnoses, which should be safe under HIPAA compliance. A COVID-19 test also gives your employer access to your DNA, which is one more reason why the information should be private. In the case of HIPAA non-compliance, employers will not only face lawsuits from the regulatory authorities but also the affected employees, says the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).
To avoid possible lawsuits when you reopen, protect your employee’s safety during COVID-19 by ensuring your workplace complies with all COVID-19 precautionary measures and guidelines. Additionally, purchase the right business insurance to protect your business finances against potential COVID-19-related lawsuits. Contact CAV Insurance to learn about your options for business insurance in Wellesley and surrounding cities in MA. We can help you assess your insurance needs and determine ways for you to cut your insurance costs.