Effective June 5, 2020, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed a revision to Section 1(g) of the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310/1) which significantly changes the compensability rules specific to COVID-19.

What Employers Need to Know
The revision states that most employees who work for an essential business as defined in the Stay-at-Home order enacted on March 20, 2020, are considered frontline workers and if diagnosed with COVID-19, are presumed to have been infected at work. This could equate to a compensable workers' compensation claim. However, there are conditions in which this presumption is rebuttable. Therefore, it is critical that every employer take steps now to protect themselves against claims for which the revision was not intended to include.

Actions Employers Need to Take
First and foremost, the employer should recognize that completing the investigation required by OSHA for recordable incidents not only satisfies OSHA requirements, but will also help with identifying where an infected individual may have been exposed. If, through this investigation, it is determined that an individual was infected by an alternative source outside of the workplace, it could help to provide an argument against the presumption. Additionally, the OSHA recordable investigation will help the employer determine which infections should be reported as a claim to Synergy and in turn will provide the basic information needed for our claims investigation. Remember, an OSHA recordable investigation does not take the place of a compensability investigation; rather, it is a supplement to Synergy's investigation. Please click here to download the investigation form Synergy has created to help guide the employer through the investigations of COVID-19 illnesses.

Equally important, implementing the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and CDC guidelines will not only keep the workplace safe, but could also provide another defense against the automatic presumption if these guidelines were implemented for at least 14 days prior to an individual's infection. To proactively address this, Synergy created a worksheet for employers to document their workplace health and safety protocols based on IDPH and CDC guidance. Click here to download the worksheet and send a completed copy to Vinnie Salmieri, vsalmieri@synergyinsurance.net, your Risk Manager at Synergy.

We encourage you to read the revisions of the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act in order to fully understand the increased workers' compensation exposure. The revision changes the traditional view of compensability and Synergy needs your help to obtain all the facts so the correct compensability determinations are made. Through a concerted effort, we strive to help you keep your workplace safe from hazards including COVID-19.

References

The information shared in this email is current as of the date sent. Guidance continues to change and the above information may become outdated. Therefore, you may receive additional communication from Synergy regarding an update on this topic.