Will workers' compensation cover Coronavirus infections?

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued guidelines for precautionary measures to take to protect employees from exposure to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Although workers' compensation will likely cover work-related infections, the agency noted that health care workers and those who work in laboratory settings would be at higher risks than in other occupations. Risk assessments must determine activities and tasks that could expose workers and employers must have clear plans for action when exposure incidents occur.

Cal/OSHA says feasible work practice and engineering control must be used to minimize the exposure of health care workers. The standards include those mandated in the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard because the 2019-nCoV is an airborne infectious disease. Measures include isolation areas or rooms, air disinfection, air filtration and exhaust ventilation controls. Pathogens can be transmitted through the air that workers breathe, aerosols and droplets.

Adequate personal protective equipment, including respirators, must be provided. Furthermore, supervisors must ensure all workers know the correct way to use and dispose of it, and learn about its limitations. Workers must be vaccinated as soon as vaccines become available. Emphasizing the potential threat is crucial, along with a reaffirmation of the importance of disinfection and decontamination procedures.

Because the Coronavirus is a relatively new threat, all possible precautions must be taken to protect employees in all industries. The California workers' compensation insurance program covers on-the-job injuries and work-related illnesses. Proving an illness to be work-related could be challenging, and affected workers can rely upon the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney.

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