The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Oct. 1 published a new series of answers to its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The FAQs address when an employer must report to the agency an employee’s in-patient hospitalization and fatality as a result of contracting COVID-19 at work.
OSHA clarified in the FAQs that for cases of COVID-19, the term “incident” means an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace. This is a welcome departure from OSHA’s previous position, which eliminated the work-relatedness determination altogether.
Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), employers are only required to report in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA if the hospitalization “occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident.” Therefore, to be reportable, an in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. This means an employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that: (1) the employee has been in-patient hospitalized; and, (2) that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19.
The FAQs also provide that an employer must “report a fatality to OSHA if the fatality occurs within 30 days of the work-related incident.” Therefore, to be reportable, a fatality due to COVID-19 must occur within 30 days of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. This means an employer must report the fatality within eight hours of knowing both that: (1) the employee has died; and, (2) that the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19.
A link to the new OSHA FAQs on Reporting Coronavirus Cases can be found here.