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 updates below.
According to a recent article by HealthDay News, hand sanitizer has had a dangerous affect on young children. Though the eye injury is reported as a "common complication," it is a concern for adults and health care workers due to overuse during the pandemic. Eye exposure to sanitizers may lead to blindness from development of corneal ulcers. Read more about the recent study to learn more.
The CDC provided updated information on COVID-19 vaccines. The updates highlight:
“The current mitigation efforts and orders in place are more important than ever. We must unite against COVID and follow these orders.” Governor Wolf reminds us. Pennsylvania continues to work to meet the needs of hospitals and care facilities while performing case investigations and contact tracing. The chart composed by PA Media, outlines the current restrictions on PA businesses, work, schools, child care and congregate settings. For social restrictions, gathering limits are determined by using the maximum occupancy calculator.
FDA Authorizes First COVID-19 Test for Self-Testing at Home
The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is a molecular (real-time loop mediated amplification reaction) single use test that is intended to detect the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
The latest COVID-19 updates from the FDA can be viewed here.
The CDC revised their definition of “close contact,” broadening what should be considered exposures of potential concern.
Pennsylvania has submitted its initial plan, received feedback and is working on revisions now. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine reported PA is actively preparing to receive, store, distribute and administer the vaccine.
According to Construction Dive, a recent study found that construction workers had the highest positivity rates for asymptomatic cases of any occupation, including healthcare staff, first responders, correctional personnel, elderly care workers, grocery store workers and food service employees.
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.
Question: 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.
A majority of September's fines were for healthcare facilities, nursing homes and large indoor processing facilities in the meatpacking industry. A new report with statistics gathered by the New York Times, estimates around 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths can be linked to nursing homes.
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”.
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.
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 released Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for Regional Administrators and State Plan Designees.
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.
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:
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.
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."
CDC now expanding benefits of masks. Read More.
The latest COVID-19 updates from the CDC can be viewed here.
CDC COVID DATA TRACKER LINKS:
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
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.
PA's COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard. VISIT THE DASHBOARD.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Gov. Wolf: Health Secretary Signs Order Providing Worker Safety Measures to Combat COVID-19
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.
Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Lowering Limits on Indoor and Outdoor Gatherings.
The latest COVID-19 updates for the state of New Jersey can be viewed here.
Updated Quarantine Advisory Issued for Individuals Traveling to New Jersey. Read More.
CURFEW EXTENSION: Governor DeWine announced today that the Ohio Department of Health will be extending the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. statewide curfew until January 2, 2021.
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. Amy Acton, 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.
Gov. Justice provides reminder that updated face covering requirement is now in effect & celebrates progress on another vaccine.
According to West Virginia state press coverage, the new order requires all West Virginians age 9 and older to wear a face covering at all times inside all indoor public places. This differs from the Governor’s initial indoor face covering requirement, which allowed masks to be removed in such places if adequate social distancing could be maintained. Under the new order, that exception no longer exists.
The new order also requires that all businesses and organizations that invite the public into their facilities must post adequate signage advising guests of the requirement and are also responsible for enforcing the requirement to ensure it is being followed.
Gov. Justice continues to encourage all West Virginians to be tested. 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.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revised and extended the epidemic order to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read the update here.
Michigan Launches Dozens of Free COVID-19 Test Sites Statewide. Learn More.
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 Illinois can be viewed here.
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:
View WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard for a global perspective on pandemic statistics.
The WHO has updated information related to how COVID-19 can spread from person to person. 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."
Westmoreland Checking for COVID-19 Symptoms at 911 Center
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.