New OSHA Guidelines Require Work-Related COVID-19 Reporting

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Robison Wells

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has clarified a rule that instructs on reporting infection and deaths from diseases caught on the job site. Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), employers are required to report in-patient hospitalizations if the hospitalization "occurs within twenty-four hours of the work-related incident." For cases of COVID-19, the term "incident" means exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.

In other words, for a COVID-19 infection or death to require reporting, it must occur within 24 hours from exposure to the virus at work. If a worker goes into the hospital within 24 hours of leaving work, and there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace, the employer must report the case and must do so within a day. For a death rather than a hospitalization, that must be reported if it happened within 30 days of a workplace incident, and in that case, the employer must report within 8 hours of the death. If the death had an unknown cause but is later determined to be due to COVID-19 infection, the 8-hour window begins as soon as the employer learns of the cause of death.

The clarification from OSHA comes from the fact that the previous clause, 29 CFR 1904.4(a), requires the recording of all work-related COVID-19 infections and deaths, whereas the new guidance on 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6) means that they must report, not just record.

You can report a fatality or in-patient hospitalization using any of these means:

• Call the nearest OSHA office;

• Call the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); or

• By electronic submission, report online.

Be prepared to supply: Business name; name(s) of employee(s) affected; location and time of the incident; a brief description of the incident; and contact person and phone number so that OSHA may follow-up with you (unless you wish to make the report anonymously).

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