As Illinois enters phrase three of the state’s reopening plan after a stay-at-home order that lasted more than two months, construction businesses that didn’t remain active during the shutdown are gearing up to reopen with significant modifications. Along with the added challenges of project delays and compliance complaints, employers must be prepared in the event that an employee gets sick on the jobsite, leading to anything from workers’ compensation filings to wrongful death lawsuits. Below, a roofing attorney from Illinois discusses general liability considerations and potential exposure in reopening your roofing business.
How Can Roofing Contractors Best Limit Liability During the Process of Reopening?
The number one step to reduce liability in any circumstance, and any industry for that matter, is to familiarize yourself with the applicable guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, and state and local authorities. This is especially important if you operate in multiple jurisdictions with differing standards and laws. COVID-19 is different from the traditional safety hazard in that it is constantly changing, and you’ll need to stay dedicated to keeping up with these developments and adjusting according.
Industry specific guidance for the construction industry provided by OSHA includes the following recommendations:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick
- Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and to increase personal space to at least six feet, where possible
- Promote personal hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- Provide and instruct workers to use alcohol based wipes to clean shared tools or equipment before and after use
- Limit the number of workers present at in-person meetings
- Clean and disinfect portable jobsite toilets regularly
Will General Liability Insurance Cover COVID-19?
Due to the fact that losses related to COVID-19 can come in many forms, including delays and furloughs, and the terms of insurance policies vary by insurance carrier, it is difficult to say with absolute certainty that one particular type of claim will be covered. However, there are some factors to be aware of. First, as comprehensive general liability (CGL) policies typically cover bodily injury and property damage caused to third parties on the insured premises, allegations that an insured caused a third party harm by failing to exercise reasonable care in warning of the risk of potential exposure could be covered. Bodily injury claims brought by insured employees, on the other hand, may be covered by a workers’ compensation policy.
The only exception to both of these circumstances is if the employee or third party is able to establish a direct causal connection to the jobsite. For example, if your employee has COVID-19 and is able to prove that the condition was contracted at their place of employment or through associated travel. Any lost time or absence from work during the monitoring period may trigger coverage under workers’ compensation and related benefits.
The most likely scenario you may experience during the process of reopening your roofing business is alleged negligence for failing to use reasonable care to protect workers and their families. To protect your business from COVID-19-related liability exposures, you should perform a comprehensive examination of your present practices, paying attention to how your business interacts with third parties on your premises and in direct contact with your employees. The adjusted focus should be on shielding your business from potential negligence and defending any related claims. For legal assistance in reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic, contact a roofing attorney in Illinois today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.