OSHA’s Updated COVID-19 Guidelines: What Businesses Should Do Now to Avoid Penalties and Legal Pitfalls

As businesses wait to see whether OSHA will issue emergency temporary standards and OSHA State Plans renew and consider their own standards, find out what your business can do now to get ready.

Hear from an OSHA 30 Certified legal specialist on the highlights of OSHA’s January 29, 2021 Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing of COVID-19 in the Workplace, how both management and employees play a role in developing and implementing the revised safety requirements, and how to minimize related legal risks.

In this pre-recorded webinar, AmTrust’s Kelley Barnett, VP Corporate Counsel – Labor and Employment and OSHA 30 Certified and Jeff Corder, VP of Loss Control shared:

  • Why should businesses care about the updates, and what are the consequences of NOT caring?
  • What do businesses need to know to implement OSHA’s guidelines?
  • What changes should businesses implement to avoid compliance landmines and legal pitfalls and get ready for increased OSHA enforcement?

California DMV Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program

Any business with job positions that require employees to operate company owned, leased or personal vehicles for business use faces a heightened liability risk.

One small distraction behind the wheel can lead to a serious accident causing injury or death to others. Or, a not so serious accident with someone who sees “deep pockets” because they were hit by a vehicle operated by a business can lead to a large defense claim.

Think about it, you constantly hear personal injury attorney advertisements on the airwaves encouraging people who have been hit by commercial vehicles to call them because “big money can be at stake.”

What this means is your business must have a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Program in its driver qualification and selection process.

Without going into full scale detail about MVR programs in this post, businesses should, at a minimum, require applicants for driving positions, to submit a copy of their driving record as part of the application process. Additionally, require drivers to provide updated MVRs on an annual basis to evaluate driving performance and qualify them for continued operation of company owned and/or leased vehicles.

Drivers that received violations and/or were involved in preventable vehicle incidents may need training, counseling or other appropriate actions to correct poor driving behaviors.

This is where the the California DMV Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program comes in to play.

The California DMV Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program enables commercial organizations to monitor the driving records of employees who drive for them. By monitoring their employees’ driving records, organizations can:

  • Ensure that each driver has a valid driver license.
  • Recognize problem drivers or driving behavior.
  • Improve public safety.
  • Minimize liability.

How it Works:

Each employer enrolled in the EPN program is assigned a requester code. The requester code is added to applicable employees’ driver license records. When an employee’s driver license record is updated due to an action or activity, the DMV makes an electronic check to determine if a pull notice is on file. If the action or activity is one that must be reported under the EPN program, a driver record is generated and mailed to the employer.

Every year on the enrollment date, the EPN program automatically generates and mails a driver record when any of the following actions or activities occurs:

  • The driver is enrolled in the EPN program.
  • When a driver has any of the following actions or activities added to their driver record:
    • Convictions.
    • Failures to appear (FTAs).
    • Accidents.
    • Driver license suspensions or revocations.
    • Any other actions taken against their driving privilege.

With the potential risk your business faces by having owned, leased or personal vehicles on the road, now is the time to put any and all risk management practices into place to to help lessen the likelihood of a loss. And the California DMV Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program is a great starting point. Check it out for yourself and contact me if you need any help with this.

-JK

My Interview with Candy Messer on The Different Types of Insurance To Protect Your Business

Thank you to Candy Messer from Affordable Bookkeeping and Payroll Services for interviewing me on the topic of “The Different Types of Insurance To Protect Your Business” Some of the key items we discussed are:

  • Tailoring Insurance Coverage for each unique business
  • Commercial General Liability Insurance
  • Workers Compensation Insurance
  • Errors & Omissions (Professional Liability) Insurance
  • Do home based businesses need a business insurance policy?
  • Is business insurance required by law?
  • Insurance for contractual requirements and lease agreements
  • Employment Practices Liability Insurance
  • The difference between Commercial General Liability and Errors & Omissions Insurance
  • Cyber Liability / Data Breach Insurance
  • How much does business insurance cost?
  • Ways you can keep your insurance costs down
  • Negotiating premiums with Carrier underwriters

Check out our interview together here:

Thanks for watching

-JK

Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards – What Employers Need to Know

California approved emergency temporary Cal/OSHA standards on COVID-19 infection prevention on
November 30, 2020. These new temporary standards apply to most workers in California not covered by
Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard.

With some exceptions, all employers and places of employment are required to establish and implement an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP) pursuant to an Emergency Temporary Standard in place for COVID-19 (California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 8, section 3205(c)).

Cal/OSHA has developed this model program to assist employers with creating their own unique CPP tailored to their workplace. Here is information on the regulation and a sample program for your use:

Also a link to a FAQ page about the regulation HERE

This is the link to the COVID-19 resources from Cal-OSHA. There are 5 good sections here, there is guidance by industry, FAQ’s page, training and educational materials, webinars and an online training section. All of the sections have good resources that have been helpful to me and others. I think you will find them useful as well.

Stay safe and healthy out there…

-JCK

If You Want Quality Commercial Insurance Coverage, it Starts With You

Several months ago, a client of mine lost their commercial building to a fire. A total loss. It was a really unfortunate situation.

There’s been a lot going on since then, but I’ll fast forward to the claims process today.

In speaking with the claims adjustor, my client was told he should feel really good about his policy coverage. That you “should be thankful that your broker put together a nice comprehensive policy for you” with all the bells and whistles.

My client called me to share the news of this conversation. In a time of difficulty, it was refreshing to hear such a strong statement from the carrier side.

As their agent/broker, this made me happy to hear. It’s NEVER fun when you get a call from a client sharing they sustained a property insurance loss. These are really technical policies with so many coverage types, endorsements, and exclusions that vary from carrier to carrier. In fact, I would argue that commercial property insurance is the most complicated line of insurance to deal with after sustaining a loss.

The thing is, you can’t just get a “Cadillac” policy for just any old subject of insurance. Whether it’s for Commercial Property, Liability, Workers Compensation, or any other form of insurance, the subject of insurance needs to be well maintained in order to get quality coverage from an insurance policy.

It’s like having good credit. When you do, you get better interest rates, better loans, better terms. You have banks lining up wanting to lend you money.

The same goes for insurance policies. You see, my insured’s commercial building was totally renovated within the past 10 years. Roof, plumbing, electrical, and heat were totally updated to modern standards. Carrier underwriters LOVE to see this. This allowed me as their agent/broker to build a quality policy that ultimately came through in a big way during my insured’s greatest time of need.

This doesn’t just apply to commercial property insurance either. Take Workers Compensation insurance for example. Your company has a sound safety program/culture with favorable claims/loss history. As a business owner, you conduct employee screenings, background checks, physicals, etc., etc. When all these details align, you will have carriers fighting to insure your business knowing you take the necessary measures to try to prevent claims from happening in the first place.

Or let’s talk about Commercial General Liability. You can get better terms and pricing if you have proper contracts in place with vendors and other interested parties. Sound quality assurance procedures for your products or operations. These things and so many more will help not only mitigate claims, but it’ll help swoon underwriters like you’re a contestant on The Bachelor (ABC).

The list goes on with all types of business insurance policies.

It’s then up to your insurance agent or broker to put together a quality policy to protect your business. This too is extremely important because, like all industries or professions, there are a lot of good insurance professionals out there but bad ones too.

At the end of the day, you have to give in order to receive it. You make sound business decisions and have proactive risk management procedures in place, you can get exceptional insurance coverage at a reasonable price. But if you don’t really care about the important details and don’t put much TLC into what you do, don’t expect the world from your insurance policy. You don’t give a crap? Well, you will only get crap in return.

As for my client who lost their building, the carrier has already paid out $180,000 of almost $500,000 in losses. They have superior coverage because they have a superior broker of course ;). But more importantly, superior coverage because they had a superior building which was well maintained with love. In return, this allowed me to build the “Cadillac” insurance policy that will ultimately keep their asset protected and give rest at night knowing they will be made whole again by the carrier in response to this unfortunate loss.

-JK

California Assembly Bill 5 Means Changes for Workers’ Compensation Insurance

California Assembly Bill 5 (also known as CA AB 5) was signed into law in September 2019, implementing a new test all employers must use to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the California Labor Code. The law may impact who you cover under your workers’ compensation insurance policy.

CA AB5

While the bill is effective January 1, 2020, the part that affects workers’ compensation insurance coverage goes into effect July 1, 2020.

Know The Facts

  • The new legislation is not based on policy effective date. As of July 1, 2020, as an employer, you’ll be subject to the new test. This means that a worker could be classified as an independent contractor before July 1, 2020 and as an employee after July 1, 2020.
  • If you’ve employed an independent contractor that can supply you with a certificate of workers’ compensation insurance that is effective during your policy period, he/she would not be considered part of your employee roster. You would not report payroll for him/her.
  • In order to avoid an unexpected change in exposures at time of audit, you must include payroll for all employees defined by the statute as of July 1, 2020.
  • The statute applies to businesses headquartered in California AND businesses headquartered elsewhere with employees working in California.

Got questions? Contact me. I’m here to help you with this law change in any way possible.

-JK

Beware: Communicable Disease Exclusion for Commercial General Liability Insurance

With more businesses set to slowly open their doors again, I’m certain that insurance carriers are going to start adding this Communicable Disease Exclusion onto Commercial General Liability insurance policies at renewal. I’ve reviewed various policies of my insured’s to see if this exclusion is tucked away in any current policies and I am not seeing much of it at this time, but I bet it’s coming. Here’s the policy form/exclusion I’m referencing:

It’ll be interesting to see how insurance carriers respond. Will they potentially remove it for an additional premium, or if it’ll be straight non-negotiable?

My suggestion is to keep your eyes open on your general liability policy to see if this is added at renewal and what the potential repercussions are for your business.

I think in due time, new regulations will be put in place within the insurance industry to address communicable diseases, but I feel this is critical to look at now from a Risk Management standpoint.

-JK

Burglary and Theft Prevention

A lot of businesses are shut down right now and suddenly there are many individuals who find themselves out of work. Premises’ that are typically bustling with business and commerce are at a standstill sitting vacant as we wait for this Coronavirus pandemic to pass.

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

I’m hoping this doesn’t become a trend but just this morning alone, I had two different retail clients call in to report claims burglary and theft overnight with the doors busted open as a point of entry. Luckily due to monitored alarm and surveillance cameras, the burglars didn’t seem to get away with much based on early indications.

This serves as a reminder to be vigilant with your business premises and your neighbors in the surrounding areas.

Here is a Burglary Prevention Checklist from The Hanover Insurance Group to help get your brain thinking about measures you can take to help prevent burglary and theft at your place of business. We have enough to deal with right now, so let’s try to eliminate additional perils like this if at all possible.

-JK

Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans
to small businesses.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.

The administration soon will release more details including the list of lenders offering loans under the program. In the meantime, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued this guide to help small businesses and self-employed individuals prepare to file for a loan.

Here are the questions you may be asking— and what you need to know:

Two Things You Can Do Today to Lower Your Business Insurance Premiums to Weather the Coronavirus Storm

Last week was tough. Call after call, I spoke with business owners and others in management roles who are feeling scared and anxious right now for obvious reasons. Due to the effects of the Coronavirus, they’ve already had to either lay off staff or furlough their hours to save on operational costs.

Some were calling to inquire about canceling their insurance coverage entirely until we get through this storm. My advice has been that we might not need to go down that road right now.

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

Before taking such drastic matters, here are two things you can do today to lower your insurance premiums without sacrificing or eliminating your current coverage:

  1. Review your estimated annual sales with your commercial insurance agent/broker and make adjustments to your liability insurance policies. Liability insurance premium is typically rated in accordance with gross annual sales/revenues, subject to audit at the end of the policy term. Rather than wait for the audit at the end of your current policy term, adjust your policy now to get the premium down which will help save on your monthly costs.
  2. For your Workers Compensation insurance policy, review your estimated annual payrolls and make any adjustments now rather than wait for the annual audit or canceling the policy altogether. If you’re at a standstill and do not have any payroll, or very minimal payroll, make the adjustment now.

Insurance carriers are making billing accommodations and extending grace periods for cancellations by as many as 60 days. Call your insurance carrier billing departments right away and explain your situation. Do not wait. They’ll most certainly make accommodations based on the current state of affairs.

Times are challenging for the entire world right now, but I believe we’ll get through this just as fast as we were thrown into it. Although insurance premiums aren’t the only operational cost for a business, they are one that we can control now by taking these types of measures. By doing this and maintaining your coverage, you won’t have to go through the process of re-applying for insurance once things are back to “normal.”

This too shall pass.

-JK

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