Are you confused by federal OSHA’s reporting requirements for coronavirus cases? You’re not alone.

The law firm Baker Hostetler says it’s been hearing from employers that they’re confused by OSHA’s reporting guidance on what to do if an employee gets the coronavirus.


Guidance Removed

Baker Hostetler says OSHA published guidance on its website that appeared to conflict with its own rules and created confusion for employers.

So much confusion resulted that OSHA removed the guidance. To top that off, OSHA is prioritizing inspections related to COVID-19. And employees haven’t been shy about reporting their employers to the agency. Some companies have received fines as a result.

Under 1904.5, for a COVID-19 case to qualify as work-related, an event or exposure in the work environment must either cause or contribute to the illness.

An employer must classify the case as work-related only if it is more likely than not that workplace exposure played a causal role in the COVID-19 case.

Also, a case is reportable if the worker is hospitalized within 24 hours or dies within 30 days of the workplace exposure (1904.39). The employer must report the hospitalization or fatality within 24 hours of learning of a reportable hospitalization or within eight hours of learning of a reportable death.


OSHA Hits Meatpacking Industry with First COVID-19 Related Fine

Federal OSHA issued its first Covid-19-related citation at a Smithfield meatpacking plant. The fine was issued under the General Duty Clause and totaled $13,494.

OSHA has recommended, but not mandated, COVID-19 guidance for employers to implement to protect workers from the coronavirus. Engineering, administrative, and PPE controls such as social distancing measures, physical barriers, face shields and face coverings are some of a vast array of protections that OSHA has recommended.

OSHA has also advised that employers provide safety and health information through training, visual aids, and other means to communicate important safety warnings in various languages.

Smithfield’s Battle with COVID

This isn’t the first time this company has been in the news surrounding COVID-19. In April, the nearly 1,300 employees contracted the virus, with 4 employees succumbing to the illness.

OSHA cited the company for one violation of the general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm. Smithfield has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

If you are in the meat processing industry, we highly recommend our COVID-19 course for Safety Professionals. Click here to enroll now.


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About the Author

Jon Knight

Jon Knight leads the NASP Team’s media creation department. He has been involved with workplace safety training since 2017 with a focus on course creation. He also provides video production and voiceovers for NASP content.
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