October 2021 – CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY – Building Risks Evolve, Creating Unique Challenges


AS THE CONSTRUCTION industry booms, contractors face evolving risks that, left unchecked, can leave their operation exposed to new liabilities.
If you already operate a construction firm, you know that there is a labor shortage that has made it difficult to find experienced workers and that hiring entities are asking builders to take on more of the design function, as well.
Your liability picture has also likely changed with the increasing use of wrap-ups and, if you’re using technology in your operation, you now have rising cyber-security risks, too.

Lack of qualified workers

The bottom fell out of the construction industry in the U.S. during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many worksites were idled. Now that the industry has found its footing, it’s been dealing with a severe labor shortage.
As construction firms struggle to find workers, the ones who are on the job are having to take on larger workloads, which can put them at risk of injury or making mistakes.
Also, many contractors are having to take on younger, less-seasoned laborers, who may lack the experience to identify and avoid hazards, which puts them and others at risk of injury. Those injuries in turn affect your workers’ comp
premiums.
A lack of workers coupled with inexperienced new ones on sites can also end up drawing out projects, forcing contractors to miss deadlines.

Professional liability risks

As more project owners want an all-in-one job with the lead contractor designing and building the project, contractors now face a new type of risk: professional liability.

But the typical contractor’s insurance policy doesn’t provide protection for any design work you take on.
Courts have ruled that:

  • Designers who perform “builder activities” lose limitation of liability typically enjoyed by design professionals.
  • Builders who perform “design activities” assume responsibility for design deficiencies.

Wrap-ups more prevalent

Many construction projects are now covered under one general liability policy to cover the work of the general contractor, as well as of all the subs. More lenders are requiring that liability is set up in one all-encompassing policy.
A properly assembled general liability wrap-up should provide coverage not only during the construction period, but also up to 10 years after the work is completed.  These policies often reduce the cost of coverage.

More cyber-security risks

Like all industries, the construction sector has grown increasingly reliant on technology to get the job done. That exposes contractors to a variety of cyber risks, including keeping project designs, client records and employee records confidential.
Many building contracts today include clauses requiring the contractor to be responsible for potential cyber breaches.
Given the increasing popularity of practices such as “building information modeling,” “integrated project delivery,” and file-sharing between participants in a construction project, contractors may be at increased risk of liability in the event of a data breach.


April 2021 – Social Engineering Crime – Business Compromise Scams Growing Fast


BUSINESS COMPROMISE scams that use both technology and a human touch to steal funds from businesses are growing as criminals engage in social engineering tactics to dupe unsuspecting employees.

Businesses have lost millions of dollars to social engineering scams, where attackers impersonate a company president or executive who is authorized to approve wire transfers to trick employees into transferring funds into a fake client or vendor account.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, in 2019 U.S. businesses were hit with an estimated 23,775 e-mail compromise scams that
resulted in aggregate losses of $1.7 billion. Figures for 2020 are not yet available.

Vishing – or voice phishing – attacks have been growing. The FBI in January warned of an increase in vishing attacks targeting employees working remotely in the COVID-19 pandemic, and of the heightened risks companies face when network access and broadening of online privileges may not be fully monitored.

 

How to train employees

Providing practical employee phishing training is key to keeping your company safe. The following are activities and tips to help you train employees to stay vigilant.

Remote workers should be vigilant in checking internet addresses, more suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, and more assertive in verifying the caller’s identity with the company, the FBI recommends.

When training staff, you should:

  • Explain what vishing and phishing is, how it happens, and what risks it poses on a personal and company level.
  • Explain the different types of phishing attacks.
  • Train your workers in identifying signs of phishing attacks, like e-mails with poor spelling and grammar, incorrect e-mail addresses (for example BobS@ Startbucks.com), and fraudulent URLs.
  • Train your staff in recognizing phishing links, phishing attachments, and spoofed e-mails. Additionally, your employees should know what steps to take after they identify a threat.
  • Conduct simulations that send employees fake phishing e-mails. The results should be shared with them to show how they fell for the scam and the damage that being duped into clicking on a malicious link can cause.

 

Insurance

As vishing and business e-mail compromise scams increase, more employers are seeking to add coverage in their commercial crime policies.
Typically, these policies have been used to cover losses for internal theft, but lately, about 50% of claims are for losses related to phishing and fishing scams.
The price of social engineering coverage varies by risk and limit, but it can often be added to a crime policy as a rider.
One thing though: social engineering coverage will often have lower limits than a typical commercial crime policy. This is because of the risk of much larger financial losses than a company could expect from internal theft or white-collar crime perpetrated by an employee.

 

ADVICE FROM THE FBI

  • Consider instituting a formal process for validating the identity of employees who call each other.
  • Restrict VPN connections to managed devices only (meaning not on employees’ personal devices).
  • Restrict VPN access hours.
  • Employ domain monitoring to track the creation of or changes to corporate brand-name domains.

April 2021- Cyber Insurance – As Attacks and Costs Mount, Rates Climb Higher


CYBER INSURANCE rates are going to increase dramatically in 2021, driven by more frequent and more severe insured losses, according to a recent industry study.

The report by global insurance firm Aon plc predicted that rates would jump by 20% to 50% this year due to two main factors:

 

1. Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent

While publicly disclosed data breach/privacy incidents are actually occurring less often, ransomware attacks are exploding in frequency.

Ransomware incident rates rose 486% from the first quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2020. The comparable rate for data breach incidents fell 57% during the same period. The incident rates for the two types of events combined rose 300% over the trailing two years.

 

2. The costs of these attacks are growing

The average dollar loss increased in every quarter of 2020. Ransomware attacks were particularly severe – many of them resulted in eight-figure losses. Others may grow to that level as business interruption losses are adjusted and lawsuits against insured organizations proceed.

The combination of more frequent and more costly losses is a
recipe for higher rates.

Cyber insurance rates continued increasing in 2020, with rises of between 6% and 16% in the last four months of the year. In January 2021, most of the top 12 cyber insurance companies told Aon they were planning more drastic rate hikes. Nearly 60% reported that they would be seeking rate increases of 30% or more during the second quarter. None of them expected increases less than 10%.

 

New underwriting criteria

When insurers evaluate cyber insurance applicants, they will be particularly concerned with the organization’s overall cyber risk profile, its cyber governance and access control practices, and its network and data security. Prior loss history will be less important because the frequency of attacks is growing so quickly.

Some insurers may also cap how much they will pay for ransomware losses, or even exclude them entirely. They may also increase the waiting periods before coverage begins to apply.

 

WHAT BUSINESSES CAN DO

To improve your chances of getting more favorable pricing and coverage, the report recommends that you focus on:

  • Reducing the risk of cyber losses.
  • Measures to keep data private.
  • Building an internal culture of cybersecurity.
  • Preparing for ransomware attacks and disaster recovery planning.
  • How your contracts and insurance will respond to a supply chain security breach.
  • Understanding primary and excess coverage terms and
    communicating primary terms to excess insurers.

Pandemic Transition – How to Reopen, Bring Staff Back to Work Safely – July 2020


IF YOUR business is reopening after a relaxation of shelter-in-place orders, you should proceed with caution and make sure you have safeguards in place to protect your workers, as well as customers if they are entering your premises.
Here are some recommendations from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and other sources that can apply to any municipality anywhere in the country.

Measures to protect employees
• If someone can continue working from home, let them do so.
• Tell employees not to come to work if sick.
• If any employee tests positive for, or has symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, you should:
– Ask that they isolate at home, and
– Ask all employees who may have come in contact with that colleague to immediately self-quarantine at home.
• Check employees for symptoms or a fever before they enter. This must include a check-in concerning cough, shortness of breath or fever, and any other symptoms the employee may be experiencing.
• These checks can be done remotely or in-person upon the employee’s arrival. A temperature check should be done at the worksite, if feasible.
• Offer at no cost to your employees cloth face coverings if they are going to have contact with the public during their shift. If they are disposable, masks should be thrown away at the end of every shift. If they are reusable, they should be washed after every shift in hot water.
• Instruct employees not to touch their masks.
• Disinfect break rooms, restrooms, and common areas frequently.
• Place hand sanitizer in strategic locations.
• Allow employees to take frequent breaks to wash their hands.

Signage
Place signs at each public entrance of your facility to inform all employees and customers that they should:
• Avoid entering if they have a cough or fever.
• Maintain a minimum 6-foot distance from one another.
• Wear a mask for their own protection, as well as for the safety of others.

Controlling crowds, lines
Limit the number of customers on the premises at any one time, to allow customers and employees to easily maintain at least 6-foot distance from one another at all practicable times. Post an employee at the door to ensure the maximum number of customers in the facility is not exceeded. If people are queueing up, mark the ground outside to ensure proper social distancing.

Spacing between employees
• Require employees to work at least 6 feet apart. You may need to reorganize workspaces to ensure proper spacing.
• In jobs where workers are on their feet, mark spots on the floor where they should stand to ensure social distancing.
• Space out tables, chairs, and microwaves in break rooms.
• Another option is to use partitions made of plexiglass so workers can communicate and make eye contact.
• In addition, you may want to abandon the popular open workspace concept and revert to using cubicles, which gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s as a way to increase productivity by putting barriers between office workers. Having that divider will make your staff feel safer and can offer some protection.
• Reconfigure furniture placement in offices, public seating areas, and other work areas to support physical distancing.

Cleaning and circulation
Take steps to minimize air from fans blowing from one worker directly at another. Also, consider opening windows for circulation.
Also important are:
• Disinfecting surfaces in workspaces, as well as doorknobs, buttons, and controls. Pay special attention to areas that are frequented and touched more often.
• Providing workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles.
• Employees who are cleaning and disinfecting should wear disposable gloves.
• Cleaning surfaces using soap and water, then using a disinfectant.
• Sanitizing any other personal protective equipment such as hardhats after every shift.


CARES ACT – New Law Helps Coronavirus-hit Employers, Workers – April 2020


THE $2 TRILLION Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus law has a number of provisions that employers and their workers need to know about and can take advantage of during this crisis.

The CARES Act aims to help workers and employers weather the outbreak by:
• Extending unemployment benefits.
• Requiring health plans to cover COVID-19-related costs.
• Providing Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency loans.
• Providing emergency loans for mid-sized and large companies.

Parts of the CARES Act will likely benefit your organization and employees in some way. Here’s what you need to know:

Extended unemployment

The CARES Act extends unemployment insurance benefits to workers, as long as they lost their jobs due to the outbreak.
Unemployment benefits under the CARES Act also apply to furloughed employees.
Workers in California will be able to collect both state unemployment and federal unemployment through the new law.
Under existing state law, workers who have lost their jobs can already receive regular unemployment benefits of between $40 and $450 per week, depending on their highest-earning quarter in a 12-month period beginning and ending before they apply for benefits with the state Employment Development Department. These benefits can last for up to 26 weeks.
The Pandemic Emergency Compensation program funded by the new law will provide an additional $600 per week on top of state unemployment benefits, through July 31.
The law extends state-level unemployment by an additional 13 weeks. For example, whereas most of California’s unemployment benefits last 26 weeks, the bill extends state benefits to 39 weeks.
The extended benefits will last through Dec. 31.

Health plan changes

Under the CARES Act, employer-sponsored group health plans must provide for covered workers – without cost-sharing or out-of-pocket expenses – the cost of COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations when and if they become available.

SBA loans

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000.
This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available following a successful application. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.
This program is for any small business with fewer than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons) as well as private non-profit organizations affected by COVID-19. You can find more information here.

And the law’s Paycheck Protection Program offers 1% interest loans to businesses with fewer than 500 workers. Borrowers who don’t lay off workers in the next eight weeks will have their loans forgiven, along with the interest. These loans are designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. If small businesses maintain payroll through this economic crisis, some of the borrowed money via the PPP can be forgiven – the funds will be available through June 30. Act fast.

Mid-sized employers

Under the new law, the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to implement financial assistance programs that specifically target mid-size employers with between 500 and 10,000 employees.
Loans would not have an annualized interest rate higher than 2% and principal and interest would not be due and payable for at least six months after the loan is made. But unlike loans under the PPP, these are not forgivable.


CYBER SECURITY – Malicious Coronavirus-related E-Mails Spread – April 2020


AS IF BUSINESSES didn’t have enough to worry about, online scammers have started sending out malicious e-mails to organizations about coronavirus that appear to be from business partners or public institutions. The criminals send these to rank and file employees in the hope that at least one of them will click on a link or attachment in the e-mail, which unleashes malware or tries to trick them into wiring money for supplies purportedly to protect the organization’s workers.

The number of malicious e-mails mentioning the coronavirus has increased significantly since the end of January, according to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint Inc. The company noted that this wasn’t the first time they had seen such widespread cyber attacks associated with some type of disaster. But because this is global in nature, it decided to track the new threat. This practice of launching cyber attacks that are centered around global news and outbreaks (like the current COVID-19 coronavirus) isn’t anything new. Cybercriminals have long employed these tactics to take advantage of users’ desires to keep as up to date with any new information as possible or to evoke powerful emotions (like fear) in the hope that their sentiments will get the better of them and they will not pause to check for the legitimacy of these e-mails.

The cybercriminals are using the public’s ignorance about coronavirus, as well as the conflicting claims of how to protect against it, to lure people into clicking on their malicious links or get them to wire money. Because people are afraid, their guards may be down and they may not be as careful about identifying the e-mail as dangerous.

Some real-life examples

• Japanese workers were targeted in January and February with e-mails that looked like they came from local hospitals. The messages even included legitimate contact information for key personnel. The e-mails were focused on employees of various companies and came in a message that would look like it’s a reply to something or a warning that people are getting from the government. But when they clicked, it was malware. E-mails were sent to companies in the transportation sector that looked like they came from an employee of the World Health Organization.
They included the WHO logo and instructions about how to monitor crews aboard ships for coronavirus symptoms, and they included an attachment with instructions. This phishing e-mail attack was
intended to lure individuals into providing sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information and passwords.
• Companies in the US and Australia have been receiving malicious e-mails that use a display name of “Dr. Li Wei” and are titled “CORONA-VIRUS AFFECTED COMPANY STAFF.”

What you can do

All that it takes to break into your business is a cleverly worded e-mail message. If scammers can trick one person in your company into clicking on a malicious link, they can gain access
to your data. It’s important to train your staff to identify suspicious e-mails. They should avoid clicking links in e-mails that:
• Are not addressed to them by name, have poor English, or omit personal details that a legitimate sender would include.
• Are from businesses they are not expecting to hear from.
• Ask you to download any files.
• Take you to a landing page or website that does not have the legitimate URL of the company the e-mail is purporting to be sent from.
• Include attachments purportedly with advice for what to do. Do not open them even if they come from relatives or friends.


CONSTRUCTION RISK – Why You Need ‘Key Man’ Insurance – April 2020


IF YOU are operating a small business, you are likely relying on a small staff to get the job done. Many employees in small firms have to wear many hats and if one of them or an owner should die, the business could suffer greatly from that sudden loss of talent. If you don’t have “key man” insurance, that setback could be devastating to the viability of your operations, whereas coverage would provide you with extra funding that you would need while recovering from the loss. Keyman insurance is life insurance on a key person or persons in a business. In a small business, this is usually the owner, a founder or perhaps a few vital employees. These are the people who are crucial to a business – the ones whose absence would sink the company. You need key man insurance on those people.

Key man insurance basics

Before buying coverage, give some thought to the effects on your company of possibly losing certain partners or employees. In opting for this type of coverage, your company would take out life insurance on the key individuals, pay the premiums and designate itself as the beneficiary of the policy. If that person unexpectedly dies, your company receives the claim payout. This payout would essentially allow your business to stay afloat as you recover from the sudden loss of that employee or partner, without whom it would be difficult to keep the business operating in the short term.

Your company can use the insurance proceeds for expenses until it can find a replacement person, or, if necessary, pay off debts, distribute money to investors, pay severance to employees and close the business down in an orderly manner. In other words, in the aftermath of this tragedy, the insurance would give you more options than immediate bankruptcy.

Determining whom to cover

Ask yourself: Who is irreplaceable in the short term? In many small businesses, it is the founder who holds the company together – he or she may keep the books, manage the employees, handle the key customers, and so on. If that person is gone, the business pretty much stops.

Determining amount of coverage

• The amount of coverage depends on your business and revenue.
• Think of how much money your business would need to survive until it could replace the key person, come up to speed and get the business back on its feet.
• Buy a policy that fits into your budget and will address your short-term cash needs in case of tragedy.
• Ask us to get some quotes from different insurers. • Check rates for different levels of coverage ($100,000, $500,000, etc.)


KEEPING OPERATIONS GOING – Tips for Successful Telecommuting – April 2020


WITH THE current isolation orders for most workers in California, many companies have had to scramble to put systems in place to allow their employees to telecommute. Many businesses are not set up for having employees work from home, and they have legitimate concerns about productivity and communications. But there are steps you can take to make sure that you keep your employees engaged and on task.

1. Make sure they have the right technology

If you don’t already have one, you may want to consider setting up a company VPN so your employees can access their work e-mail and databases. You will also need to decide if you are going
to provide them with a company laptop, and you need to make sure that they have an internet connection that is fast enough to handle their workload. Also provide an infrastructure for them to be able to work together on files. If they are not sensitive company documents, they can use Dropbox or Google Documents, which allow sharing between co-workers.

2. Provide clear instructions

It’s important that you provide clear instructions to remote workers. Some people do not perform well without direct oversight and human interaction. Without that factor, you will need to spell out your expectations and the parameters of the projects they are working on in detail. Make it clear that if they are confused or unsure about any part of the work, they should contact a supervisor for clarification. If you can eliminate misunderstandings, then your workers can be more efficient.

3. Schedule regular check-ins

To hold your employees accountable for being on the clock, schedule calls or virtual meetings at regular intervals. Even instant messaging works. During these meetings they can update their
superiors on their work. This also helps with productivity, since there are consequences for failing to meet expectations and coming to the meeting empty-handed. Their supervisors should be working when they are, so they can be in regular communication.

4. Keep employees engaged

One of the hardest parts of working from home is the feelings of isolation and detachment from colleagues. It’s important that you build in interactive time for your workers. One way to do that is by using a chat program like Slack, Hangouts or WhatsApp (which has a group chat function). For remote workers, these programs are a blessing because they make it easy to keep in touch with their colleagues in and out of the office – and they level the playing field, so to speak, by making distance a non-issue.

5. Cyber protection

With employees working from home, you also increase your cyber risk exposure, especially if they are using a company computer that is tapped into your firm’s database or cloud. Teach them cyber security best practices, such as:
• Not clicking on links in e-mails from unknown senders.
• Making sure their systems have the latest security updates.
• Backing up their data daily.
• Training them on how to detect phishing, ransomware
and malware scams, especially new ones that try to take advantage of people’s fears about COVID-19.


Top New Laws and Regs Affecting Businesses – January 2020 RISK REPORT


The new decade is starting off with a tsunami of new laws and regulations that will affect California businesses. Companies operating in California will have to be prepared for significant changes or open themselves up to potential litigation, fines, and other risks.

Here’s what you need to know coming into the new year:

1. AB 5

The controversial AB 5 creates a more stringent test for determining who is an independent contractor or employee in
California.  Known as the “ABC test,” the standard requires companies to prove that people working for them as independent contractors are:

A) Free from the firm’s control when working;
B) Doing work that falls outside the company’s normal business; and
C) Operating an independent business or trade beyond the job for which they were hired.

Legal experts recommend that employers:

• Perform a worker classification audit, and review all contracts with personnel.
• Notify any state agencies about corrections and changes to a
worker’s status.
• Discuss with legal counsel whether they should now also include them as employees for the purposes of payroll taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, federal income tax withholding, and FICA payment and withholding.

2. Wildfire safety regulations

Cal/OSHA issued emergency regulations that require employers of outdoor workers to take protective measures, including providing respiratory equipment, when air quality is significantly affected by wildfires. Under the new regs, when the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particulate matter 2.5 is more than 150, employers with workers who are outdoors are required to comply with the new rules. These include providing workers with protection like respirators, changing work schedules or moving them to a safe location.

3. Arbitration agreements

Starting Jan. 1, the state will bar almost all employee arbitration agreements. AB 51 bars employers from requiring
applicants, employees and independent contractors to sign mandatory arbitration agreements and waive rights to filing
lawsuits if they lodge a complaint for discrimination, harassment, wage and hour issues. Businesses groups sued to overturn the law on the grounds that it is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act.

4. Overtime rules

New federal overtime regulations are taking effect for non-exempt workers. Under the new rule, employers will be required to pay overtime to certain salaried workers who make less than $684 per week – or $35,568 per year – up from the current threshold of $455, or $23,660 in annual salary.

5. Consumer privacy

Starting Jan. 1, under the California Consumer Protection Act, businesses that keep personal data of residents are required to safeguard that information and inform website users how their personal data may be used. The law applies to firms with $25 million or more in annual revenues or those that sell personal information as part of their business.

6. Return of the individual mandate

A new law brings back the individual mandate requiring Californians at least to secure health insurance coverage or face tax penalties. This comes after the penalties for not abiding by the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate were abolished by Congress in late 2017. Starting in 2020, California residents are required to have health insurance or pay excess taxes. This will affect any of your staff who have opted out of your group health plan as it may mean they are going without coverage, unless they have opted to be covered by their spouse’s plan. If you have staff who didn’t enroll in your plan for 2020, they may have to wait until your group’s next open enrollment at the end of the year. That could force them to pay tax penalties.

7. New audit, X-Mod thresholds

The threshold for physical workers’ compensation audits for California policies incepting on or after Jan. 1 is $10,500 in annual premium, a drop from $13,000. This means that any employer with an annual workers’ comp premium of $10,500 or more will be subject to a physical audit at least once a year. On top of that, the threshold for experience rating (to have an X-Mod) has also fallen – to $9,700 in annual premium as of Jan. 1, from $10,000.

8. Harassment training partly pushed back

Employers with five or more workers were required to conduct sexual harassment prevention training for their staff by the end of 2019 under a California law passed in 2018. A new law extends the compliance deadline for some employers who had already conducted training prior to 2019. The original law, SB 1343, required all employers with five or more staff to conduct sexual harassment prevention training to their employees before Jan. 1, 2020 – and every two years after that. If you have never trained your staff, you should have done so in 2019.

But if you have, here are the new rules:
• If you trained your staff in 2019, you aren’t required to provide refresher training until two years from the time the employee was trained.
• If you trained your staff in 2018, you can maintain the two-year cycle and comply with the new Jan. 1, 2021 deadline. You did not have to repeat the training in 2019.

9. Hairstyle discrimination

A new law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees and job applicants based on their hairstyle if it is part of their racial makeup. The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), defines race or ethnicity as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles like braids, locks, and twists.” This new definition of race means that natural hair traits fall under the context of racial discrimination in housing, employment and school matters.

10. Reporting serious injuries

A new law broadens the scope of what will be classified as a serious illness or injury which regulations require employers to report to Cal/OSHA “immediately.” The new rules being implemented by AB 1805 are designed to bring California’s rules more in line with Federal OSHA’s regulations for reporting. It will mean that some injuries that were not reportable before will be, such as:
• Any inpatient hospitalization for treatment of a workplace injury or illness will need to be reported to Cal/OSHA.
• An inpatient hospitalization must be required for something “other than medical observation or diagnostic testing.”
• Employers will need to report any “amputation” to Cal/OSHA. This replaces the terminology “loss of member.” Even if the tip of a finger is cut off, it’s considered an amputation. As of yet, there is no effective date for this new law, as enabling regulations have to be written – a process that will start this year.


CAL/OSHA REPORTING – New Law Changes When Injuries Must Be Reported


Gov.  Gavin Newsom has signed a measure into law that will greatly expand when employers are required to report workplace injuries to Cal/OSHA. The new law, AB 1805, broadens the scope of what will be classified as a serious illness or injury which regulations require employers to report to Cal/OSHA “immediately.” As of yet there is no effective date for this new law, but observers say regulations will first have to be written, a process that would start next year.

The definition of “serious injury or illness” has for decades been an injury or illness that requires inpatient hospitalization for more than 24 hours for treatment, or if an employee suffers a “loss of member” or serious disfigurement. The definition has excluded hospitalizations for medical observation. Serious injuries caused by a commission of a penal code violation (a criminal assault and battery), or a  vehicle accident on a public road or highway have also been excluded.

Compliance

Rules for reporting serious injuries and illness or fatalities are as follows:
• The report must be made within eight hours of the employer knowing, or with “diligent inquiry” should have known, about the serious injury or illness (or fatality).
• The report must be made by phone to the nearest Cal/ OSHA district office (note that a companion bill, AB 1804, eliminated e-mail as a means of reporting because e-mail can allow for incomplete incident reporting).

Because of the “diligent inquiry” component, employers should monitor any injured worker’s condition once they learn of an injury, particularly if they need to seek out medical treatment. A member of the staff should be on hand to monitor the employee and report to supervisors immediately if that person will need to be hospitalized. Employers should make sure that supervisors are made aware of the new rules so that any time a worker is injured to the point that they need to be  hospitalized, they know to notify Cal/OSHA within eight hours.

Also, if you have an employee that suffers a medical episode at work – such as a seizure, heart attack or stroke – you are required to report the hospitalization to Cal/OSHA. It’s better to err on the side of caution if an employee is hospitalized for any reason. Not doing so can result in penalties for failure to report or failing to report in a timely manner. Accordingly, it is important to educate management representatives, particularly those charged with the responsibility to make reports to Cal/OSHA, about the nuances of Cal/OSHA’s reporting rules.

One final note: The results of a serious injury or illness or workplace fatality will usually trigger a site inspection by Cal/OSHA, so be prepared if one should occur.