Recently issued guidelines for when an employer must report COVID-19 as a recordable illness were released by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). According to the update, COVID-19 related work incidents no longer start at the beginning of a confirmed diagnosis. Now, these incidents start at the time of an employee’s exposure to the virus.
Prior to this revised guideline, OSHA did not require that employers record positive cases outside of the health care/emergency responders fields without “objective evidence that a positive COVID-19 case was work-related and there was evidence of work-relatedness reasonably available to the employer,” according to the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”).
THE BASICS FOR REPORTING A COVID-19 INFECTION
In many instances, it remains difficult to determine whether COVID-19 illnesses are work-related given the nature of the disease and ubiquity of community spread, according to OSHA.
Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness that an employer is responsible for recording if:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5; (if an injury or illness—such as a pre-existing condition—“caused or contributed to the resulting condition…”) and
- One or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7.(In general, this includes an employee’s death, missing days from work, restricted work, or the transfer of a job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.)
It is important to note the difference between reporting cases to OSHA versus recording them. Reporting involves contacting OSHA, either by phone or through their website. In doing so, this could launch an investigation into the infection case regarding the specific employee. However, recording involves noting the work-related incident via an OSHA log pursuant to 29 CFR 1904.
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR REPORTING COVID HOSPITALIZATIONS AND FATALITIES
Reporting rules for COVID-19 related hospitalizations and fatalities can be complicated and involve specific timing and recordkeeping requirements.
When an employee is hospitalized due to a work-related injury/incident, employers are required to notify OSHA of the hospitalization within 24 hours of the admission in which the work-related injury/incident took place. In addition, a fatality needs to be reported to OSHA if it occurs within 30 days of the work-related injury/incident.
Employers must report to OSHA within 24 hours of any work-related incident that results in the hospitalization of one or more employees, an amputation, or the loss of an employee’s eye. Again, it is important to remember that employers are reporting from the time of exposure and not the time of the diagnosis.
In the event that an employee died due to COVID-19, from the time the company learns of his or her death, it has eight hours to report this information to OSHA.
Do not hesitate to contact legal counsel knowledgeable of OSHA and workplace safety requirements with any questions regarding reporting requirements related to COVID-19.