Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

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Reporting Workplace Exposures to COVID-19

Feb 17, 2021

Germs-1217085214 600x400OSHA’s updated FAQs on COVID-19 reporting can help employers determine whether they are responsible for reporting a COVID-19-related hospitalization. 

The important step for sheet metal and HVAC companies is establishing whether the illness is “work related”.

Q. An employee has been hospitalized with a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19. Do I need to report this in-patient hospitalization to OSHA?

A. Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), employers are only required to report in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA if the hospitalization “occurs within twenty-four (24) hours of the work-related incident.” For cases of COVID-19, the term “incident” means an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace. Therefore, in order to be reportable, an in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. The employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been in-patient hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19. Thus, if an employer learns that an employee was in-patient hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the in-patient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within 24 hours of that determination. See 29 CFR 1904.39(a)(2), (b)(7)-(b)(8).

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, as required by 29 CFR 1904.4(a). For more information on recording cases of COVID-19, see Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

The updated FAQs also answer questions related to:

  • Reporting the fatality or in-patient hospitalization of an employee with a confirmed work-related case of COVID-19; and,
  • An employee who has died of a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19.

COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are true:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19);
  2. The case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5); and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid, days away from work).

Visit OSHA's Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements page for more information.