COVID-19 – A Workers’ Compensation Perspective
As an employer, this will have a significant effect on your business. Work attendance is a problem, Getting your materials and or delivering your materials is going to be very difficult from an HR side. Are we dealing with strictly an illness or are we dealing with a workers’ compensation injury or workers’ comp issue? If this is reported as a workers’ compensation injury, we need to show that the injured worker contracted this virus while in the course and scope of their employment. This can be a difficult thing to do. Some of this came up earlier during the H1N1 virus situation in 2009 and also the SARS infection back in 2003.
Discovery needs to be made as to what is the most likely cause of the illness. Is it something that the person caught because their child came home from a daycare center or is this something that they caught because they were interacting with the public in the course and scope of their business.
The next thing to look at is what kind of impairment are we going to have from this type of virus. As you have seen from the various news agencies, this can be anything from a short term viral illness all the way up to death.
Fortunately, it appears that well over 90% of these cases are going to leave no impairment. Some of them will leave workers with some lung issues which might need to be addressed. There are also indications that this virus can attack other bodily systems. This is something that will need to be monitored closely. Then, of course, in the worst case scenario, we have employees dying from this illness.
Obviously the best thing for the employers to do at this time is to take steps to reduce the exposures at the work site, make sure that cleaning schedules are stepped up and done properly and try to minimize the social interactions which might cause the spread of this disease as well.
There are multiple heath and safety steps out there which can be reviewed and implemented for the various businesses.
It is hoped, of course, that this will be a short term situation that will not last more than 30 to 60 days but the employer will have to respond to that as situations develop.