10 ways employers in Washington state are impacted by COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Approach has been sharing information on the response with our clients through Ask Approach, Toolbox Talks, and our weekly email newsletter.

This week, we’re looking back at what we’ve seen and learned during the past several months. It’s safe to say that the challenges facing our employers — and the tasks that you all are being asked to carry out — are unlike anything we’ve seen before or would have imagined even at the start of this year.

1) They’ve started screening employees for COVID-19 at the beginning of every shift

It’s not a legal requirement, but the Washington Department of Health recommends that employers screen every employee and visitor for COVID-19. The recommendation is that this happen before each shift or visit. Visits should only take place if absolutely necessary and for as little time as possible. Learn more about workplace screening, plus what to do if there is a positive COVID-19 case.

2) They’ve gotten some relief for Workers’ Comp Premiums

Workers’ comp premiums are a major expense for employers in Washington state. The average employer pays about 64 cents for every hour worked by every employee throughout the year. Many employers pay $2 or more – again, just for workers’ comp. L&I has twice provided extensions for companies struggling to pay workers’ comp premium due to the pandemic. The latest premium extension gives employers until November to pay premiums that normally would have been due in July.

3) But, there’s NO relief for time-loss and other claims costs

As we reported in April, L&I has decided not to make any adjustments to time-loss calculations during the COVID-19 crisis. This means that time-loss and other claims costs will continue to accrue as normal, even if your business or workplace has been affected by COVID-19.

It’s more important than ever to bring workers back to light-duty work whenever possible, as soon as possible. Your Approach retro coordinator can help.

4) They must require face coverings for all employees, visitors, and customers

There are three separate orders in Washington state related to face coverings:

  • Face coverings are required in all public spaces
  • Employers must provide face coverings for employees who aren’t working alone
  • Businesses should request that people without face coverings not enter the business

More information about these orders has been combined into a single overview for employers, available in English (Updated July 20) and Spanish (PDF).

5) They must contact their local health department with COVID-19 concerns

The Safe Start guidance, which has now been extended indefinitely, states that employers “must notify your local health authority if you believe COVID-19 is spreading in your workplace or if 2 or more employees develop symptoms in a 14-day period.”

6) Agricultural employers must adhere to special requirements

All worksites and work-related functions in the agricultural industry must adhere to a special
COVID-19 Safety Plan. Julio Salas, our agricultural specialist on the Approach safety team, can help Approach clients with COVID-19 questions and concerns.

On August 14, Governor Inslee also announced new funding for agricultural and food production workers who need to remain home while quarantining or due to illness.

7) Employers in other industries also have special requirements

L&I has posted a summary of the minimum requirements for all employers in Washington state.

Most industries have further requirements. And, many industries have different requirements for each phase of reopening. Here’s a look at the requirements for Approach clients:

Industries with specific guidance in Washington State

Industry Essential Phase 1 Phase 2
Food Processing
Health Care
Professional Services

You can find industry-specific guidance on the Governor Inslee website

Remember: even if your industry doesn’t have specific guidance listed, the minimum guidance for all employers still applies!

8) They have less support from the state due to furloughs…

Many Washington state employees, including L&I staff, had furlough days in July and will continue to be furloughed one day each month through November. This will delay processing and response times for workers’ comp claims.

9) …but more chance of inspection and fines

The furloughs do not include DOSH staff, which means workplace safety inspections are still occurring regularly. In fact, inspections have increased to ensure compliance with Safe Start regulations. This means that many businesses that would normally be a lower priority for inspections now have a greater chance of being inspected 

10) They’re finding that COVID-19 impacts nearly every aspect of their business

As businesses struggle to re-open and adjust to the new normal, it’s clear that the impacts of COVID-19 reach far and wide. This Spring, Approach hosted webinars featuring information on telemedicine, legal advice, ergonomics, safety inspections, and nurse case management, each of which provides new challenges (along with some opportunities) during the pandemic. Our Approach Client Portal features recordings and handouts from each of these presentations.

Washington state is compiling information for employers at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/business/business-workers. If you’re an Approach client, then the Approach safety team and your retro coordinator are here to help you navigate the challenges of our times. You can also find our pandemic-related posts at https://www.pitb.com/employer-resources-for-covid-19-coronavirus/.