Amerisafe Group is launching this webpage as a resource to occupational health and safety professionals and others for daily updates on matters related to the occupational impacts of COVID-19. We regularly check various occupational health and safety (OSHA, NIOSH, CDC, WHO, FDA, etc.), and various government agency sources for current information so that we can serve our internal and external customers. We also monitor our surrounding states such as PA, OH, WV, IL, NJ, MI. It includes relevant sources, any new Q&A we’ve had and other discussions. Keep current for daily updates below.
October 29, 2020
Update as of 10/29/2020
• 193,611 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
• 8,762 deaths statewide
• 2,282,828 patients tested negative to date
Strategize creative ways to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19 and maximize fun this Halloween. Safety must be a part of the plan. Make Trick-or Treating Safer.
According to the National Safety Council, the mortality numbers for COVID-19 already have surpassed the total annual number of preventable, accidental deaths in 2018, the most recent year of final data, and we still have four months left of 2020. Following behind heart disease and cancer, COVID-19 will most likely be the third leading cause of death in 2020. The current number of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. surpasses 170,000, exceeding the total number of preventable deaths in 2018 which was 167,127.
You may have wondered if the N95 is effective for 95% of particles 0.3 microns in size, wouldn’t a smaller-sized COVID-19 particle pass right through the respirator and into the wearer?
OSHA has issued a statement addressing COVID-19 and N95 effectiveness, and it answers the question.
The following was pulled from OSHA’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions webpage.
Q: Will an N95 Respirator Protect the Wearer from the Virus that Causes COVID-19?
A: Yes, an N95 respirator is effective in protecting workers from the virus that causes COVID-19. "N95" refers to a class of respirator filter that removes at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles from the air. Some people have mistakenly claimed that since the virus that causes COVID-19 is approximately 0.1 microns in size, wearing an N95 respirator will not protect against such a small virus. That mistaken claim appears to result from a misunderstanding of how respirators work.
When an infected person expels the virus into the air by activities like talking, coughing, or sneezing, the airborne particles are composed of more than just the virus. The virus is part of larger particles that are made up of water and other materials such as mucus. These larger particles are easily trapped and filtered out by N95 respirators because they are too big to pass through the filter. This is called mechanical filtration. But mechanical filtration is just one of the ways that respirator filters keep particles from passing through the filter. An electrostatic charge also attracts particles to fibers in the filter, where the particles become stuck. In addition, the smallest particles constantly move around (called "Brownian motion"), and are very likely to hit a filter fiber and stick to it.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tests respirators using particles that simulate a 0.3 micron diameter because this size particle is most likely to pass through the filter. If worn correctly, the N95 respirator will filter out at least 95% of particles this size. An N95 respirator is more effective at filtering particles that are smaller or larger than 0.3 microns in size.
The N95 respirator filter, as is true for other NIOSH-approved respirators, is very effective at protecting people from the virus causing COVID-19. However, it is important for employers and workers to remember that the respirator only provides the expected protection when used correctly. Respirators, when required, must be used as part of a comprehensive, written respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard. The program should include medical evaluations, training, and fit testing.
October 21, 2020
OSHA officials have not let the COVID-19 pandemic stand in the way of inspecting jobsites. According to Construction Dive, fines of more than $125,000, including three fatalities in Quarter 3.
September 13, 2020
According to the Food Environmental Reporting Network, 42,534 meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in 494 meat plants, and 203 meatpacking workers have died since March. Companies criticized federal regulators for taking so long to give them guidance on how to keep workers safe. The Washington Post reported that OSHA noted that plants failed to provide a workplace "free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were working in close proximity to each other and were exposed to."
Federal OSHA and Its State Counterparts Make COVID-19 Safety Measures Top Priorities. Read More.
OSHA’s latest COVID-19 updates can be viewed here.
U.S. Department of Labor Cites Ohio Nursing Facilities for Failing to Fully Implement Respiratory Programs to Protect Employees from Coronavirus. Read More.
In a recent News Release, OSHA provided coronavirus-related guidance to help employers develop policies and procedures that address the following issues:
OSHA released frequently asked questions and answers about face coverings, surgical masks and respirators in the workplace. Please remember that each state may have different guidelines in place that are more stringent than OSHA’s guidance.
OSHA released an alert titled: “COVID-19 Guidance on Social Distancing at Work”. The alert provides steps employers can implement to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. OSHA has launched a new webpage
with coronavirus-related guidance for construction employers and workers. The guidance includes recommended actions to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. OSHA provided a description of work tasks with exposure risk levels along with recommended engineering and administrative controls. In addition, OSHA provides information on what information can be included in COVID-19 training. Below is a table that contains work tasks and their associated exposure risk levels.
OSHA released a memorandum (Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019) to Regional Administrators and State Plan Designees that will assist Compliance Officers (CSHOs). If, after taking the appropriate actions described in the memorandum, the employer cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role with respect to a particular case of COVID-19, the employer does not need to record that COVID-19 illness. The memorandum discusses:
On May 26, 2020, the previous memorandum on this topic will be rescinded, and the new memorandum will go into and remain in effect until further notice.
OSHA released an additional memorandum to Regional Administrators and State Plan Designees to assist Compliance Officers (CSHOs).
In geographic areas where community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased, OSHA will return to the inspection planning policy that OSHA relied on prior to the start of the COVID-19 health crises, as outlined in the OSHA Field Operations Manual (FOM), CPL 02-00-164, Chapter 2, when prioritizing reported events for inspections, except that:
OSHA released COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce. The following tips can help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus:
Safety measures employers can implement to protect employees working in manufacturing include:
OSHA should investigate complaints, referrals, and employer-reported fatalities and hospitalizations to identify potentially hazardous occupational exposures and to ensure that employers take prompt actions to mitigate hazards and protect employees. This will be conducted in accordance with OSHA’s Field Operations Manual.
Article from Safety & Health, Official Magazine of National Safety Council Congress & Expo
According to an agency press release, employers “other than those in the health care industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting and law enforcement services) and correctional institutions” generally will not be required to record COVID-19 cases because they “may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work."
OSHA Quick Card: How to Protect Yourself in the Workplace during a Pandemic
The March 14 guidance, which applied to healthcare, now applies to all workplaces covered by OSHA where there is required use of respirators. This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. This guidance is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis.
OSHA released COVID-19 Quick Tips Videos (see below content) which focus on social distancing, disinfecting workplaces and industry work factors to keep workers safe from COVID-19.
On April 4, 2020 OSHA released Enforcement Guidance for Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. As part of the guidance document, the federal government advised that employers may consider using respirators and filters certified under the following standards of other countries or jurisdictions:
If respiratory protection must be used, and either acceptable National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified alternatives or alternatives that were NIOSH-certified except for having exceeded their manufacturer’s shelf life are not available for use in accordance with OSHA’s April 3, 2020 memorandum, employers may consider using respirators and filters certified under standards of other countries or jurisdictions, as specified in the enforcement guidance. Additional information related to the different certifications can be found here.
The memo provides information related to extending the use (or reuse) of N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) in addition to the use of expired N95 FFRs. Below are a few highlights from the memo:
On Friday, March 27, 2020 H.R.748 - Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019 was signed into law. Included in the Bill are provisions for the US Department of Labor which included:
The latest COVID-19 updates from the CDC can be viewed here.
The CDC published a Manufacturing Facility Assessment Toolkit for safety professionals to assess their workplace. The facility assessment checklist is intended for use by facility management and/or occupational safety and health professionals to assess a facility’s COVID-19 control plan and determine whether control measures in place align with CDC/OSHA guidance.
Counterfeit Respirators / Misrepresentation of NIOSH-Approval: How to identify a NIOSH-Approved Respirator
A couple interesting developments or studies were reported in the last week on respiratory protection COVID-19. The first development is the CDC put on their webpage a discussion and listing of counterfeit respirators (i.e., those that are NOT NIOSH approved, but claim to be). Read More
Obviously the issue is these respirators cannot be used in situations demanding NIOSH approval, such as when an N95 respirator must be used. Further, if claiming they are NIOSH approved when they are not, these respirators are likely also NOT FDA cleared as occurs with surgical masks. Therefore they could NOT be considered surgical masks either. At best, they could be considered face masks similar to the cloth and others being worn. Should you be on a project/site you are encouraged to review respirators used and if any are included on the CDC list of counterfeit respirators.
If you have any questions regarding respiratory protection, please contact the Consultation Group.
June 26, 2020
CDC added new signs/symptoms of COVID-19 to the list:
The CDC published additional recommendations for manufacturing workers and employers. The CDC provided information on:
The CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published additional guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public places, workplaces, businesses, schools and homes.
The CDC has updated their “How COVID-19 Spreads” webpage. The CDC states: “Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.” The CDC published a summary of research that describes possible decontamination methods of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs). According to the CDC “FFRs are not approved for routine decontamination and reuse as standard of care. However, FFR decontamination and reuse may need to be considered as a crisis capacity strategy to ensure continued availability. Based on the limited research available, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, vaporous hydrogen peroxide, and moist heat showed the most promise as potential methods to decontaminate FFRs.” The CDC and NIOSH do not recommend that FFRs be decontaminated and then reused as standard care. This practice would be inconsistent with their approved use, but the CDC understands in times of crisis, this option may need to be considered when FFR shortages exist.
The CDC published guidance on how to disinfect a facility. The publication provides guidance to employers on how to clean and disinfect their facility if someone is sick.
Gov. Wolf, Sec. of Health Present Latest Data
October 16, 2020
“The fall resurgence is here,” Gov. Wolf said. “And while we must always take this deadly virus seriously, now is the time for all of us to double down on our efforts to keep ourselves and those around us safe. We’ve seen what happens when masks aren’t worn and social distancing isn’t practiced – people get sick, so we need to stay vigilant and work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.” Read More.
According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Pittsburgh Federal Judge ruled against Wolf's request for a stay of the ruling in order to help the administration's efforts to fight Covid-19. Wolf, through the Office of Attorney General, had requested last week a stay of the Sept. 14 ruling pending an appeal to the U.S. Third District Court of Appeals.
There were no changes in the state’s phasing system. All counties currently remain in the green phase. View WTAE Map here.
Gov. Wolf: Sec. of Health Signs Expanded Mask-Wearing Order
With this order, signed under Dr. Levine’s authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Act, masks must be worn whenever anyone leaves home. The order takes effect immediately. Read more.
The PA Department of Labor and Industry updated a few Q’s & A’s on their Frequently Asked Questions website. Below are a few Q’s & A’s:
Q: Does the construction guidance change for counties that have moved to the green reopening phase?
A: Yes, there are no limitations to the number of workers on residential and commercial job sites. Gatherings can now be up to 25 people in yellow counties and 250 in green counties. Social distancing should still be observed while gathering. Workers may travel to the job site together, as long as the occupancy of the vehicle is limited to half the occupancy load and face masks are worn by the occupants.
Q: What qualifies a pandemic safety officer, and what qualifications must the pandemic safety officer possess?
A: The pandemic safety officer is the individual designated by the business to provide information about how the employer is complying with all relevant orders and guidance. This individual should be familiar with all relevant orders and guidance and be able to provide workers on site with accurate, reliable guidance in this regard.
Gov. Wolf provided an update on the state’s reopening process. The Wolf Administration worked with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association to develop guidance on dining in both the yellow and green phases.
Statewide Return to Work Protocols
As we open America, employers can also expect to establish new health and safety protocols for the workplace such as mandatory health screenings and face coverings—that may remain in place for the foreseeable future. Reopening plans may include multiple mitigation steps, such as limits on occupancy, sanitation and physical distancing requirements, and new posting duties. For criteria, phase guidelines and preparedness tips, visit Opening Up America for additional reference.
Below are a few items contained in the guidance document that all businesses conducting in-person operations must perform:
PennDOT Highway & Bridge Construction Projects Resume May 1
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that in accordance with the governor's plan for a phased-in reopening of public and private construction, PennDOT highway and bridge construction projects will resume beginning May 1. PennDOT road and bridge construction projects will restart with limited exceptions based on project-specific factors, including location and feasibility for social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols at the job site. Work on all projects will be conducted in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance as well as a project-specific COVID-19 safety plan, which will include protocols for social distancing, use of face coverings, personal and job-site cleaning protocols, management of entries to the job site, and relevant training. The Wolf administration issued guidance for the construction industry.
Construction projects are required to:
Commercial construction firms should also strongly consider establishing a written safety plan for each work location containing site specific details for the implementation of this guidance to be shared with all employees and implemented and enforced by the pandemic safety officer. Contractors performing work at the direction of the commonwealth, municipalities or school districts should defer to those public entities to determine what projects may continue. Local governments may elect to impose more stringent requirements than those contained in the guidance and in such instances, businesses must adhere to those more stringent requirements.
Consultant Predicts A Post-Coronavirus 'Construction Tsunami'
According to a recent update from Construction Dive (April 2, 2020), Keith Prather, market intelligence expert for Olathe, Kansas-based business management consulting firm Pioneer IQ, developed the Fear and Recovery Curve model to help indicate when the crisis will top out and when it will begin to recede. He told attendees that the U.S. economy will get back to normal sooner rather than later and downplayed some analysts’ views that the outbreak could keep businesses sidelined until early next year. Read Full Article Here.
Opening Up America
President Trump has released Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts. These steps will help state and local officials when reopening their economies, getting people back to work, and continuing to protect American lives. If these guidelines were to be used by state officials, employers may need to perform the following:
PA issued guidance for worker protection for the critical/essential employers. The order establishes protocols to help employees maintain a social distance during work:
Upon discovery of an exposure to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, businesses are also ordered to implement temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of work and send any employee home who has an elevated temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Read Full Article Here.
October 21, 2020
Updated Quarantine Advisory Issued for Individuals Traveling to New Jersey. Read More.
The latest COVID-19 updates for the state of New Jersey can be viewed here.
October 19, 2020
The latest COVID-19 updates for the state of Michigan can be viewed here.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon issued an Emergency Order on July 29 reinforcing Executive Orders 2020-160 and 2020-161 and allowing for civil fines of up to $1,000 and referral to licensing agencies for violations.
The Emergency Order requires that everyone must comply with the procedures and restrictions outlined in the following Executive Orders:
The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) has toolkits available to help workplaces in Michigan stay safe. As a reminder best practices Michigan employees should follow include:
On July 10, 2020, in response to a recent increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state, Michigan Governor Whitmer issued an Executive Order requiring individuals to wear face masks covering their nose and mouth, and businesses to refuse to provide service to customers without face coverings. Read the latest report here.
Michigan OSHA released additional clarification for the construction and manufacturing industries that applies to (only) the state of Michigan. Below are a few of the requirements for the construction industry and the manufacturing industry (this is not an all-inclusive list). A full list of requirements can be viewed here.
Businesses or operations in the construction industry must:
Manufacturing facilities must:
All Businesses, operations, and government agencies must develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan.
The construction industry reopens May 7, 2020. The Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity highlighted requirements for employers and provided further guidance on best practices to protect Michigan workers and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Under the Executive Order, construction industry employers are required to:
The governor’s order also requires construction industry employers to:
The latest COVID-19 updates for the state of Ohio can be viewed here.
The Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health (DOH) issued a Second Order to Extend the Expiration Date of Various Orders. The second order will extend the Director’s Updated and Revised Order for Business Guidance and Social Distancing
and will expire when the earlier of the State of Emergency declared by the Governor no longer exists, or the Director of the DOH rescinds or modifies the Order.
Amy Acton, Ohio Director of the Department of Health, revised the Director’s Order for Business Guidance and Social Distancing. Included in the Order are updated requirements for most businesses operating in Ohio. Below are a few sections of the Order to reference:
Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, rescinded portions of the current COVID-19 Stay Safe Ohio Order. Governor DeWine announced (5/19/2020) the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) will begin distributing at least 2 million non-medical-grade face coverings to Ohio employers who are covered by BWC. Public and private employers that participate in the State Insurance Fund will receive a package from BWC containing at least 50 face coverings.
Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued a Stay Safe Ohio Order. Effective 12:01 a.m. on May 4, 2020, manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses may reopen; however, certain actions must be performed. Section 21 of the order contains a list of 17 actions that must be performed in these settings.
West Virginia COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, submission to CDC
The latest COVID-19 updates for the state of West Virginia can be viewed here.
Gov. Justice West Virginia first state in nation to begin testing all assisted living facility residents and staff for COVID-19. The Department of Health and Human Resources issued information on recommended daily health screenings.
Recommended questions for screening:
If an individual answers YES to any of the screening questions, immediately activate your agency’s protocol for suspected COVID-19. The designated screener should consider:
• A review of the screening results.
• Recommendations for possible exclusion of the individual from the facility.
• Recommendations for medical follow-up.
Gov. Jim Justice issued a reminder (5/1/2020) that “Week 2” of the Governor’s multi-phased plan to reopen businesses across the state – “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback” – are scheduled to begin this coming Monday, May 4. This phase includes the reopening of small businesses with 10 or fewer employees, restaurants with takeaway service or outdoor dining options, as well as religious entities and funeral homes.
The latest COVID-19 updates for the state of Illinois can be viewed here.
Executive Order Executive Order 2020-43 will be extended through August 22, 2020 (through Executive Order 2020-48). This Executive Order supersedes Executive Order 2020-38.
Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-43. This Executive Order supersedes Executive Order 2020-38. The new Order lists different requirements for individuals and businesses operating in the State, including:
All businesses must:
Requirements for manufacturers. Manufacturers must ensure all employees practice social distancing and must take appropriate additional public health precautions, in accordance with Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) guidance, which include:
Requirements for office buildings. Employers in office buildings must ensure all employees practice social distancing and must take appropriate additional public health precautions, in accordance with DCEO guidance, which may include:
Next World Health Organization update on 10/22/2020 5:00 PM- 6:30 PM Geneva Time (CEST).
The latest WHO Situation Report can be viewed here.
The Director-General Dr. Tedros in his media briefing two days ago (5/11/2020), urged a slow, steady, lifting of public health and social measures (so called lock downs), which is key to stimulating economies, while also keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases is identified.
The WHO has updated information related to how COVID-19 can spread from person to person. In the latest situation report, the WHO states: “In a small number of case reports and studies, pre-symptomatic transmission has been documented through contact tracing efforts and enhanced investigation of clusters of confirmed cases. This is supported by data suggesting that some people can test positive for COVID-19 from 1-3 days before they develop symptoms. Thus, it is possible that people infected with COVID-19 could transmit the virus before significant symptoms develop. It is important to recognize that pre-symptomatic transmission still requires the virus to be spread via infectious droplets or through touching contaminated surfaces.” The WHO also states: “Preliminary data suggests that people may be more contagious around the time of symptom onset as compared to later on in the disease.” During the WHO Director-General’s briefing, he stated that PPE is one of the most urgent threats to the collective ability to save lives. The WHO has shipped near 2 million items of PPE to 74 countries and is preparing to send additional PPE to 60 other countries.
Cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, have surpassed 7.9 million worldwide, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, with more than 2 million cases in the United States. This Coronavirus Resource Center webpage, which was developed by the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, contains COVID-19 related statistical data on a global and national scale. You can click on additional counties within a state to obtain county specific data.
Photo and Article Credit: Rich Cholodofsky, Staff Writer, Tribune-Review, (04/09/2020).
According to the Tribune Review, (04/09/2020) "County commissioners last week approved a contract with Hempfield-based Amerisafe Group to conduct safety screenings at the county’s 911 center in an effort to keep staff with coronavirus symptoms out of the building. County officials almost immediately expanded the program to include the courthouse. Officials reported no issues as the screenings started Wednesday morning at the courthouse. About 150 employees, a reduced number caused by furloughs of county staff because of the pandemic, lined up shortly before 8:30 a.m. in front of the building for the temperature tests."
Commissioners approved a month-long contract with Amerisafe Group to furnish trained employees to conduct screenings at the county’s public safety headquarters on Donohoe Road in Hempfield, where a staff of 52 dispatchers man phones and coordinate first responders. The contract with Amerisafe Group will run through April 30.
The Amerisafe Group constantly monitors the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on businesses. Like so many of you we have taken steps internally in response to COVID-19 to not only protect our employees, but also the many customers we continue to service during this crisis.
You may be struggling with managing COVID-19 and its impacts to your business. Amerisafe can help. We offer a variety of services for companies to assist them in protecting their employees and managing COVID-19.
Fortunately many companies continue to operate, but still need comfort in knowing workers arriving to their shift are not symptomatic or otherwise a concern for spreading COVID-19. Our Medical Providers work with customers to develop effective, CDC-based screening tools, and then we serve as their “gatekeeper” in actually screening workers.