New OSHA Guidance Requires Reporting Work-Related COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

New guidance from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration points out that under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), employers are only required to report in-patient hospitalizations if the hospitalization “occurs within twenty-four hours of the work-related incident.” For cases of COVID-19, the term “incident” means an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.

So in order to be reportable, an in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of an exposure to the virus at work. Employers must report those hospitalizations within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been hospitalized and that the hospitalization resulted from a work-related case of COVID-19.

Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), an employer must “report a fatality to OSHA if the fatality occurs within thirty days of the work-related incident. Therefore, in order to be reportable, a fatality due to COVID-19 must occur within 30 days of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. The employer must report the fatality within eight hours of knowing both that the employee has died, and that the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19. Thus, 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.

Employers should note that 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6)’s limitation only applies to reporting; employers who are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records must still record work-related confirmed cases of COVID-19 and work-related fatalities, as required by 29 CFR 1904.4(a).

You can report a fatality or in-patient hospitalization using any of these means:

  • Call the nearest OSHA office;
  • Call the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); or
  • By electronic submission, report online.

Be prepared to supply: Business name; name(s) of employee(s) affected; location and time of the incident; brief description of the incident; and contact person and phone number so that OSHA may follow-up with you (unless you wish to make the report anonymously).