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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Employer Reporting of Work-Related COVID-19 Cases

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Nestled under the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” Pursuant to this mission, OSHA has played an important role in combating the ongoing pandemic.

On September 30, 2020, OSHA published additional frequently asked questions and answers regarding an employer’s duty to report employee in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities due to work-related cases of SARS-CoV-2 (“COVID-19”).

Does an employer need to report an employee’s hospitalization due to a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19?

Employers are only required to report an employee’s in-patient hospitalization if such “occurs within twenty-four (24) hours of the work-related incident.” In relation to COVID-19, “incident” means exposure to COVID-19 in the employer’s workplace. Therefore, if an employee is hospitalized due to COVID-19 within twenty-four (24) hours of being exposed to COVID-19 at the employer’s workplace, the employer must report this to OSHA.

The employer’s report must be submitted to OSHA within twenty-four (24) hours of knowing (i) that the employee has been hospitalized and (ii) the hospitalization was the result of a work-related case of COVID-19. If an employee is hospitalized and the employer later discovers it was a work-related case of COVID-19, the employer must report the case within twenty-four (24) hours of the discovery or determination. However, as these guidelines only apply to reporting, employers who are required to maintain OSHA injury and illness records are still required to record work-related confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Do employers need to report to OSHA when an employee has died due to a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19?

An employer is required to report a fatality to OSHA if such occurs within thirty (30) days of the work-related incident. Therefore, if an employee dies as a result of COVID-19 within thirty (30) days of exposure to COVID-19 in the employer’s workplace, the employer must report the fatality to OSHA. An employer must report the fatality to OSHA within eight (8) hours of discovering (i) the employee has died, and (ii) the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19. If an employee dies and the employer later discovers it was the result of a work-related case of COVID-19, and the employee died within thirty (30) days of exposure, this must be reported to OSHA within eight (8) hours of the employer’s discovery or determination.

How do I report the fatality or in-patient hospitalization of an employee with a confirmed, work-related COVID-19 case?

OSHA provides employers with three (3) reporting options: (i) call the OSHA office nearest the employer; (ii) call the OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742, which is available twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week; or (iii) submit a report to OSHA via online electronic submission. When an employer needs to report a confirmed case, certain items are required to complete the reporting process. Therefore, employers must be prepared to provide the following: (i) business name; (ii) name(s) of employee(s) affected by COVID-19; (iii) location and time of the incident; (iv) brief description of the incident; and (v) a contact person and phone number where OSHA can follow up. It is also possible to submit a report anonymously.

If you feel your rights have been violated or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Wrady Michel & King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724. We are here to serve you.