On September 30, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published new guidance regarding employers’ obligations to report employee in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities resulting from work-related cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Determining “Work-Related” COVID-19 Cases Places an Unrealistic Burden on Employers
Exactly what are the parameters of a COVID-19 infection being considered “work related?” Previously, employers were expected to follow the OSHA guidance issued in May 2020 to determine “whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a casual role with respect to a particular case.”
Here are the new rules and questions that accompany them:
- Employers must report COVID hospitalizations of employees within 24 hours.
- Employers must report COVID fatalities within 8 hours.
- Employers must report all confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- An employee’s in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of exposure to the virus at work. How can an employer be expected to know the exposure source?
- If hospitalization occurs after 24 hours of exposure at work, it need not be reported. How will an employer know the timing of the exposure because of the long incubation period?
- The employer’s duty to report is triggered when the employer knows both a) that the employee has been hospitalized and b) that the reason for the hospitalization was COVID-19 exposure at work within 24 hours prior to hospitalization. How can an employer make that judgement?
- Employers must report death from COVID-19 only when the employer knows both a) the cause of death was COVID and b) exposure may have been in the workplace. How can an employer be expected to make that judgment?
An employer may report a work-related COVID-19 hospitalization or death in any of the following ways:
1) Calling the nearest OSHA office
2) Calling the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800.321-OSHA (6742); or
3) Reporting online: https://www.osha.gov/pls/ser/serform.html
Our next blog will delve into the updated COVID-19 contract tracing procedures released by the federal government on October 21, 2020, which expands the category of individuals who are deemed to be in close contact with each other – and will complicate the already difficult task faced by employers when trying to maintain a safe workplace environment.
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