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Employers, Employees Face Daunting Risks from COVID 19 – OSHA, Legal, CDC Guidance

EmployersEmployeesFaceDauntinRisksFromCOVID19CoronavirusOSHAlegalCDCguidanceManufacturedHomeProNews

The Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Association (MMHA) issued a link-laced memo early this morning (3.18.2020) that included several useful specific tips.

 

While many of the items include overlapping points, that noted, among those recommendations for consideration are the following.

From the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) was this tip. The following should be treated as a news report, not as specific legal or healthcare guidance.

 

QuoteMarkManufacturedHomeLivingNewsDevelop/Update Your Business Continuity Plan [BCP]

Businesses function through PEOPLE–EQUIPMENT–PROCESSES.

When one or several of these are disrupted by external forces, business continuity and personal well-being are threatened.

Assign responsibility, and then select a backup team to draft or update your BCP.

 

Key Provisions

Your BCP will need to be tailored to your organization, but some key provisions should include:

  • Identify essential business functions
  • Who performs (and who’s cross-trained) critical activities
  • Emergency communications plan, responsibilities
  • Legal, contractual, regulatory, financial obligations
  • Key customer/vendor contacts
  • Financials: accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll
  • Facilities maintenance
  • Remote work capacities, data security
  • Absence tolerance, when will operations be significantly compromised, shutdown potential
  • Travel standards: approval, disclosure, restrictions, quarantine, global, domestic, personal.

Additional Planning Issues

Encourage/mandate sick employees stay home, go home. Be flexible on sick leave policies and medical documentation requirements. Decide how you will respond to employee decisions to remain at home (personal anxiety, own or family member illness)…

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The entire list of CBIA recommendations is found at this below.

 

Coronavirus: An Employer’s Guide

If you feel uncertain about addressing the coronavirus, don’t feel bad, you have lots of company. However, don’t let your discomfort prevent you from acting. A plan, subject to updating-and trust us, it will need updating-is better than no plan at all, or attempting to fill a blank slate on the fly.

 

Per the CDC Interims Guidance for Employers

 

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

The following interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings. The guidance also provides planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19. To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the guidance described below to determine risk of COVID-19.

 

QuoteMarkManufacturedHomeLivingNewsThere is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features of COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing. Updates are available on CDC’s COVID-19 web page.

Recommended strategies for employers to use now:

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
    • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [38.0° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
    • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
    • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
    • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
  • Separate sick employees:
    • CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
  • Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
    • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygieneat the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
    • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
    • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
    • Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpagefor more information.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning:
    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
    • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
    • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
  • Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
    • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Noticesfor the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
    • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illnessbefore starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
    • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
  • Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19:
    • Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessmentof their potential exposure.
    • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessmentof their potential exposure…

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Clarke, Snow & Riley’s website says they are a Certified Public Accounting and Management Consulting firm. They proudly proclaim that they’ve been named by INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA) “Best of the Best” list for 2018. From the Quincy, Massachusetts based Clarke, Snow and Riley LLP is the following.

 

QuoteMarkManufacturedHomeLivingNewsCOVID-19 Pandemic Poses Complex HR Policy Questions

Questions from employers and employees about coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are multiplying almost as fast as the virus itself. Employers need to rely on a combination of authoritative legal and medical advice, and their own common sense, to keep employees safe.

 Guidance issued almost daily from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and other sources, reveal the wide scope of employment issues caused by the pandemic.

A good place to start to understand an employer’s basic legal obligations is found in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Employers are obligated, the law states, to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

 

Recognized Hazards

The word “recognized” plays a key role in the current situation. On a webpage dedicated to COVID-19, OSHA points out that its standards, including those dealing with personal protective equipment and respiratory protection, “require employers to assess the hazards to which their workers may be exposed.”

Hazard levels vary from one employer to the next, as well as for different jobs that your employees perform. However, if most of your employees work in relatively close proximity to each other, it wouldn’t matter much that some deal more directly with the public and some stay in the back office, because there’s a risk that one employee will spread the virus to another. That means that your hazard assessment must include the danger that your employees pose to each other.

OSHA has placed jobs and workplaces into four COVID-19 exposure risk categories, ranging from “very high” to “lower.” As you’d expect, the highest risk categories are for jobs such as health care providers who come into regular contact with people who have, or are suspected of having, been infected.

Employees under “medium” exposure risk are those “with high-frequency contact with the general population,” such as in a retail sales environment. The “lower” risk category involves “employees who have minimal occupational contact with the general public and other coworkers, such as office employees.”

 

Appoint a COVID-19 Czar

How specifically should you be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? Before diving into the sanitary and legal matters, establish an organizational structure fit to meet the challenge. Appoint a COVID-19 response czar.

In addition to determining and taking the necessary steps to assess and mitigate the risks and address problems that arise, your COVID czar needs to be your point person in communicating with employees. Workers at all levels of your organization need consistent direction and responses to their questions. Ideally the czar will anticipate questions and answer them proactively.

The easiest questions to address are how employees can minimize their chances of becoming infected (washing their hands frequently, etc.). But it’s important to be sure that the resources (for example, soap) are on hand for them to follow those directions, as well as sufficient custodial services to keep the workplace as virus-free as possible.

It’s not too soon to make policy decisions about arranging for telework, eliminating non-essential travel, extending paid leave benefits, and a host of other issues that may arise, if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in your area. The key is striking the right balance between possibly erring miles too far on the side of caution (thereby undermining your operational capacity) and putting employees at risk.

 

Use Facts, Shun Rumors

Grounding your policy decisions in reliable threat assessments by respected organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (and not the most alarm-generating local news stories) is the way to go. It’s also important for employees to understand the basis upon which you’re making decisions affecting their jobs, pay, and health.

Click here for some advice from the CDC on what businesses and employers can do now:

Sound legal advice is critical since a host of labor laws and regulations come into play, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and HIPAA. Labor law firms are busy dispensing guidance on many COVID-19 related questions.

Here are a few Q&As to give you a sense of current concerns — but contact your own employment attorney or HR advisor for complete guidance appropriate to your unique circumstances:

 

HR Question Sampler

  1. One of my employees has tested positive for COVID-19. Now what?
  2. Not only should you keep that employee away from work but you should send other employees who worked closely with the infected employee home and ask them to stay away for two weeks. That’s the amount of time needed to determine whether they were infected, as symptoms can take that long to manifest.
  3. Would an infected employee, who is likely to have been infected at work, qualify to make a Workers Comp claim?
  4. Probably not, since getting the infection was not caused by a hazard specific to the employee’s job, like being contaminated by a toxic chemical used in connection with that specific job.
  5. Is an individual affected by COVID-19 eligible to receive unemployment compensation (UC)?
  1. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance on this situation. The DOL has stated that the unemployment Insurance program requires individuals to be able and available for work and to actively seek work. However, states have significant flexibility in implementing these requirements, as well as in determining the type of work that may be suitable given the individual’s circumstances. What this means is an individual may be quarantined or otherwise affected by COVID-19 but still eligible for UC, depending on state law. For more information: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_10-20_Acc.pdf

Q: One of my employees just returned from a trip to a place where many people have been infected by COVID-19. Can I require the employee to be tested?

  1. Ordinarily you can’t intrude into an employee’s health issues. However, if you can show that the test you’re requesting is job-related and you have reason to believe the employee could pose a direct threat to coworkers, you’re probably within your rights to make that request. Consult with an employment attorney.

For more information about COVID-19 in the workplace, OSHA has issued this publication: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

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Also from the same firm is this point, which dovetails with MHProNews’ evening market report on 3.17.2020.

Trillion Dollar Worker-Small Business Coronavirus Relief Plan, Chapman University’s Kotkin Calls for “Decoupling” from China, plus Manufactured Home Investing, Stock Updates

CSRmoreCovid19NewsHandSanitizerManufacturedHomeProNews

More COVID-19 News:

A Tax Filing Deadline Extension and HDHP Treatments

President Trump announced that the April 15 tax filing and tax paying deadline will be extended for “certain” taxpayers due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

On March 11, Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said the payment delay would put more than $200 billion into the economy that would have gone into paying taxes in April.

Some details are still scarce but Mnuchin announced on March 17 that taxpayers who owe can defer payment on up to $1 million of taxes interest free and penalty free for 90 days. Large corporations can defer up to $10 million in taxes for up to 90 days.

We’ll provide more details as they become available. Contact your tax advisor for how to proceed with your return.

Congress is also working on a package of economic stimulus and other provisions to help individuals and businesses cope with the virus.

High Deductible Health Plans and COVID-19 Costs

The IRS also issued Notice 2020-15 on March 11. The guidance allows high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) to pay for COVID-19-related testing and treatment, without jeopardizing their status. This also means that an individual with an HDHP that covers these costs may continue to contribute to a Health Savings Account.

According to the guidance, an HDHP won’t lose its HDHP status if it pays, without applying the minimum deductible or any cost sharing, for a plan participant’s testing for and treatment of COVID-19. However, the notice doesn’t require HDHPs to provide testing and treatment services without a deductible or cost sharing. It only provides that an HDHP may provide such benefits without losing its HDHP status.

The notice also doesn’t modify previous guidance regarding the requirements to be an HDHP other than with respect to testing for and treatment of COVID-19. As in the past, any vaccination costs continue to count as preventive care and can be paid for by an HDHP.

HDHP plan participants should consult their health plans to determine any health benefits for testing for and treatment of COVID-19 provided by their plans, including the potential application of any deductible or cost-sharing.

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MHProNews Analysis – the COVID 19 Response from the Manufactured Housing Institute?

Part of the de rigueur from the MMHA was the perfunctory plug for the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (MHI) belatedly announced plan to postpone their Congress and Expo to an as yet unspecified date and location.

Among the comments in yesterday on that point was this from a longtime MHI connection.

Typical MHI…never a leader, but routinely a follower
seeking the credit that rightly belongs to others
.”

It is MHI that claims itself to be the umbrella national association that represents “all segments” of factory-built housing. That claim is coming under increasing pushback from modular and manufactured housing industry voices. Where has been their so-called leadership on this coronavirus issue, for example?

Per comments from members of the Trump Administration, joblessness could go from under 4 percent to over 20 percent. That has clear implications for the manufactured housing industry and all others too.

There are more questions than there are answers at this point in time. Among them is why is this outbreak being treated so differently than others that came before it in the last decade or two? The estimates of possible death tolls, from sources inside and outside of the U.S. vary wildly. And while public health officials explain that is due to the uncertainty of how well the public response may be, isn’t it prudent to at least probe beyond those official pronouncements? After all, private physicians are giving advice about the risk factors that at times seems to run counter to those of public health officials.

That’s not said to diminish any of the points made above, but rather to state the facts that there is far from universal consensus on this evolving COVID 19 issue.

Among the points worth mentioning is the increasing rhetoric between China, Iran, Russia and certain U.S. political leaders as to who did what and when that contributed to this business disrupting scenario that few would have imagined just two weeks ago.

Among the claims from China that the U.S. planted this coronavirus in Wuhan last October during an international military event there. U.S. officials are labeling that as propaganda and disinformation.

Logically, those claims from oversees that are pointing the finger at the U.S. military seem implausible. Why? Because America was as unprepared for this outbreak as other nation were. Had this been part of a such an alleged plan as China, Russia and Iran are increasingly claiming, one might think that the federal government would be better prepared.

That noted, the concerns raised in the report linked below have yet to be addressed.

Illusions, Collusions – “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” – “Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste” – Gates, Buffett Massive Money Grabs?

Is this possibly one of the biggest, boldest money-grabs in history, as some have alleged? That is not easy to answer during this foggy period. That noted, the following is worth mentioning.

During this time of upheaval, it is prudent to step back and soberly assess what has been occurring in our industry and in our nation,” said MHProNews publisher L. A. “Tony” Kovach. “Setting aside for the moment this current crisis, what we have seen in recent years is that even larger independent firms have been revealed to be vulnerable to an array of tactics available to those with deep pockets. Pardon me if I’m wrong, but I don’t trust the powers that be in manufactured housing any farther than I could throw one of them. For clarity, that’s not very far. With those would-be feudalistic overlords and their moats, the mantra of the wise should be ‘Verify first, and trust only what is proven to be true.’ Given the low state of our industry during an affordable housing crisis, is there any reason to trust the leaders behind MHI?”

The industry ought not ignore the fact that many retail operations have closed without being expressly told to do so by the federal or state government. The number of places imposing partial shutdowns on businesses that are ‘not essential’ are growing.  In some ways, this is unchartered territory. It merits a broader discussion and probes.

 

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See the related reports below the byline for more insights and context on COVID19. That’s a wrap for this installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory built housing” © – MHVille’s runaway #1 news source, where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary.) Notice: all third party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media. SoheylaKovachDailyBusinessNewsMHProNewsMHLivingNews

Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com. Soheyla is a co-founder and managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.

 

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