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Jul 23, 2020

OSHA: Report work-related COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations

COVID-19Safety and Health 

According to recently updated guidance from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers must report (not just record) any worker’s inpatient hospitalization for care or treatment of a confirmed, work-related case of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Generally, federal regulations require employers to report inpatient hospitalizations for work-related illnesses within 24 hours of (1) the incident/exposure causing the illness; (2) learning of the inpatient hospitalization; or (3) learning that an illness causing inpatient hospitalization was work-related. The updated guidance builds on the current rules and applies them to COVID-19, explicitly requiring that employers notify the agency of inpatient hospitalizations caused by work-related COVID-19 within 24 hours of confirmation of the COVID-19 case (“confirmation” means a positive test result) or within 24 hours of the inpatient hospitalization, whichever is later. (The reporting time frame shrinks to 8 hours if an employee dies of work-related COVID-19.)

The guidance doesn’t explicitly say so, but OSHA will likely interpret the current rules to also require you as the employer to report COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations within 24 hours of learning that a case is work-related. Based on contact tracing or other factors, you may not learn a case is work-related until more than 24 hours after a worker gets a positive test result or more than 24 hours after inpatient hospitalization. The rules already require employers to report other illnesses causing inpatient hospitalizations within 24 hours of determining they’re work-related, even if they aren’t initially known to be work-related. It stands to reason OSHA would apply the same standard to COVID-19, since the agency considers COVID-19 a reportable illness. To be a reportable illness under the updated guidance, a case of COVID-19 must be (1) work-related; (2) result in inpatient hospitalization; and (3) be a confirmed case (a positive test result).

Your state may have more stringent reporting requirements. Idaho and Montana are directly subject to the federal OSHA requirements. Arizona tells employers to follow the federal rules. Oregon’s rules on reporting inpatient hospitalizations are similar to the federal rules. In California and Washington, however, employers have only 8 hours to report work-related illnesses causing inpatient hospitalizations. Also, in Washington, under the governor’s Safe Start Phased Reopening plan, employers must notify their local health authorities (but not necessarily DOSH) if two or more workers develop confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within a 14-day period, regardless of hospitalization or work-relatedness.

Tips: Reporting isn’t the same as recording. Recording work-related incidents of COVID-19 on the OSHA 300 Log is separate from the reporting requirement. See our Legal Guide, Catastrophe/Fatality Notification Procedure or visit OSHA’s online reporting portal and enter the name of your state to determine how to report the incident. Reporting or recording an incident isn’t an admission of liability. Keep your ear to the ground for word of workers who test positive for COVID-19 and end up in the hospital. For many employers, determining whether a case is work-related will be the trickiest part of deciding whether to report it. As we previously reported, follow OSHA’s guidance to determine whether a COVID-19 case is work-related for purposes of recording it on OSHA Form 300. If you have questions, contact your Vigilant safety professional.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.

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