It is no secret that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had difficulty in consistently issuing guidance regarding COVID-19. For instance, back in May, as we reported at the time, OSHA issued revised guidance as to when an employer must report COVID-19 as a recordable illness (as a respiratory illness on an OSHA Form 300). Prior to the May revised guidance, OSHA was not requiring employers to record positive cases outside of the health care/emergency responder 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.
Well, on September 30, OSHA did it again, issuing revised guidance in the form of three frequently asked questions and answers. This new guidance pertains to employers' reporting obligations for COVID-19-related hospitalizations and fatalities.
Typically, when an employee is not hospitalized immediately following a work-related injury/incident, employers are required to notify OSHA of the hospitalization within 24 hours of the admission if the admission occurred within 24 hours of the work-related injury/incident. A fatality needs to be reported to OSHA if it occurs within 30 days of the work-related injury/incident.
OSHA'S new guidance clarifies that the clock for COVID-19-related work incidents runs from the time of the employee's exposure to the virus (not from the time of the confirmed diagnosis, as indicated in the prior guidance). Therefore, "if an employer learns that an employee was in-patient hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the in-patient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within 24 hours of that determination." Regarding fatalities, "if an employer learns that an employee died within 30 days of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the death was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within eight hours of that determination."
As the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving situation, employers should continue to regularly monitor OSHA guidance on operating during the pandemic. For more information or questions, please contact your relationship partner or the author listed below. Foley is here to help our clients effectively address the short- and long-term impacts on their business interests, operations, and objectives.
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