The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) released new emergency rules on employer reporting and notification requirements for infectious and contagious diseases during a public health emergency, including the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. These new rules were created to implement the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA), which took effect on May 11, 2021 (ESSB 5115). As a reminder, HELSA establishes a frontline worker occupational disease presumption, requires employer notices and reporting, and cements high-risk worker protections (see our original article on HELSA).
These new L&I rules provide more details about reporting workplace outbreaks. If you have more than 50 employees at a worksite, then within 24 hours of confirming that 10 or more of your employees at the worksite have tested positive for the infectious or contagious disease, you must report the positive tests to L&I. The time period for determining an outbreak of 10 or more starts when at least two employees test positive within 14 calendar days of each other, and ends when 28 calendar days have passed without any employees testing positive. These dates are measured according to the dates the samples were collected, not the dates you learn of the test results. You must also notify L&I if you learn of 10 or more employees at your workplace or worksite testing positive during any period of time the state Department of Health or your local health department has informed you that an outbreak is in progress at your workplace or worksite.
The rules also clarify that your written notice to exposed employees only needs to be provided to those who were in the same building, store, facility, agricultural field, or other location that the infected person entered. You’re not required to provide notice to people in your other buildings, on other floors, or at other locations.
Tips: Our Model Form, Washington Notice of Disease Exposure, can be modified to use as your notice to exposed employees. If you have any questions about this notice or how HELSA applies to you, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.