Recently, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) removed informal guidance from its website explaining when to report work-related COVID-19 (coronavirus) exposures that cause inpatient hospitalizations. As a result, you as the employer should rely on existing regulations for reporting work-related illnesses. As we previously reported, OSHA had published guidance that made it seem as if employers had to report all work-related cases of COVID-19 causing inpatient hospitalization, regardless of the amount of time since the worker’s last workplace exposure. That conflicted with existing regulations, which only require reporting a work-related illness causing inpatient hospitalization if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of a work-related incident. Apparently OSHA removed the updated guidance because it conflicted with existing regulations.
Based on those regulations, you must report cases of work-related COVID-19 causing inpatient hospitalization if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the last workplace exposure to COVID-19. You must still report such a case even if you don’t learn until more than 24 hours after workplace exposure that an employee was hospitalized or that a case is work-related. If that happens, you have 24 hours from the time you learned about it to report. But the inpatient hospitalization itself must still have occurred within 24 hours of the last workplace exposure. For example, if a worker is exposed to COVID-19 while working on Friday morning, quickly develops symptoms, and is admitted to the hospital that evening, the case is reportable, because the case is work-related (the worker was exposed at work) and the inpatient hospitalization occurred within 24 hours of the last workplace exposure. The case would still be reportable even if you didn’t learn about it until Monday, because the hospitalization occurred within 24 hours of the last workplace exposure. A case wouldn’t be reportable, however, if the worker was exposed to COVID-19 at work on Friday, had the weekend off, developed symptoms on Saturday night, and was admitted to the hospital on Sunday night, because the inpatient hospitalization didn’t occur within 24 hours of the last workplace exposure.
Tips: We’ll update members if any further developments occur. As we previously reported, keep in mind that you may still have a recording obligation for any work-related incident of COVID-19 (on OSHA Form 300 – Log of Work-related Injuries and Illnesses), regardless of whether it caused hospitalization. The recording and reporting requirements are different. If you have a reportable case because of a hospitalization or fatality, see our Legal Guide, Catastrophe/Fatality Notification Procedure. If you have questions about whether a case is recordable or reportable, contact your Vigilant safety professional.