OSHA Seeks to Clarify Recording, Reporting Requirements for Work- Related COVID-19
A list of frequently asked questions and accompanying answers published on OSHA’s website is intended to help employers apply existing injury and illness recording and reporting requirements to the coronavirus, the agency announced in September. The new FAQs address the reporting of in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities of employees resulting from work-related cases of COVID-19. OSHA explains that employers are only required to report in-patient hospitalizations to the agency if the hospitalization “occurs within twenty-four (24) hours of the work-related incident.” The agency clarifies that for cases of COVID-19, the term “incident” refers to an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.
“In order 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,” OSHA’s website states. “The employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been in-patient hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19.”
For a fatality due to COVID-19 to be reportable to OSHA, the death must occur within 30 days of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. Employers must report to OSHA within eight hours of knowing both that an employee has died and that the cause of death is a work-related case of COVID-19.
OSHA stresses that whether or not a confirmed, work-related case of COVID-19 is reportable, it still must be recorded if employers are subject to the agency’s Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness standard (29 Code of Regulations 1904).
OSHA credited the updated guidance in the FAQs for its decision to withdraw a citation against a nursing home in Winder, Georgia.
In a press release, OSHA credited the updated guidance in the FAQs for its decision to withdraw a citation against a nursing home in Winder, Georgia. According to the citation, which was issued May 18, Winder Nursing Inc. failed to report six hospitalizations due to work-related COVID-19 within 24 hours and was fined $6,506, an amount later reduced to $3,903.60. The citation was the first OSHA had issued on a matter related to COVID-19. A copy of the citation is available from Bloomberg Law (PDF).
Revised enforcement guidance previously published by OSHA in May describes how the agency will enforce its recordkeeping requirements for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. OSHA’s revised interim guidance explains what compliance safety and health officers will consider in determining whether an employer has made a “reasonable determination of work-relatedness.” According to the agency, it is sufficient in most circumstances for employers to ask employees how they believe they contracted the COVID-19 illness; discuss with employees their work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness, while respecting employee privacy; and review employees’ work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure. OSHA states that the review “should be informed by any other instances of workers in that environment contracting COVID-19 illness.” The revised interim guidance is available on OSHA's website.
As of Oct. 22, reporting and recordkeeping violations accounted for more than 60 percent of the 144 total COVID-related citations OSHA had issued. The agency tracks COVID-related citations on its website.
Further information and resources from OSHA about COVID-19 are collected on the agency’s website.