The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued revised guidance in the form of three new Q&As on its website further clarifying when employers must inform OSHA if employees are hospitalized or die due to COVID-19.
By way of background, any on-the-job illness or injury that leads to hospitalization must be reported by the employer within 24 hours of the hospital admission, if the admission was within 24 hours of the work-related incident that led to the hospitalization. The former guidance was not clear on the meaning of “work-related incident” in the context of COVID-19. The new guidance clarifies that a work-related incident in the context of COVID-19 means exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. In other words, an employer must report a hospitalization within 24 hours of determining both that (1) the employee has been in-patient hospitalized due to COVID-19; (2) the hospitalization occurred within 24 hours of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.
The new guidance for workplace fatalities is similar. In order to be reportable, a fatality must occur within 30 days of a work-related incident. Because the guidance explains that exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace is a work-related incident, an employer must report the fatality within eight hours of determining both (1) that the employee has died due to COVID-19; and (2) death occurred within 30 days of a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.
In order report a fatality or in-patient hospitalization, employers may do any one of the following:
- Call the nearest OSHA office;
- Call the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); or
- By electronic submission, report online.
Employers should be prepared to supply: business name; name(s) of employee(s) affected; location and time of the incident; brief description of the incident; and contact person and phone number so that OSHA may follow-up (unless the report is made anonymously).
Employers should remember that they continue to have a duty to investigate whether COVID-19 infections are work-related (i.e., the product of a work-related exposure), as we discussed in a prior blog post. Likewise, OSHA’s new guidance emphasizes that it does not alter employers’ duties to record (as opposed to report) COVID-19 infections.
Because OSHA continues to refine its guidance, employers should monitor OSHA’s website and this blog regularly for the latest updates.