Adams to OSHA: Changing Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 Workplace Illness Hurts Workers and Hinders Ability to Control Pandemic
WASHINGTON – Today, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chair Alma Adams (NC-12) and Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) wrote to the heads of the Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) questioning a recent OSHA policy change that will result in sharply reduced reporting of COVID-related workplace hospitalizations and fatalities and undermine efforts to protect the safety of workers.
OSHA requires workplace fatalities to be reported to OSHA within eight hours and any hospitalization must be reported within 24 hours. Previous OSHA policy started the reporting clock when a worker is hospitalized or dies. Last month, however, OSHA altered the reporting policy for COVID-19 hospitalizations and fatalities so that the reporting clock starts at the time of an exposure incident.
In the letter, the Members note that because no one is hospitalized within 24 hours of exposure to COVID-19, these changes will result in no COVID-related hospitalizations being reported to OSHA. In addition, COVID-related deaths often occur more than 30 days after exposure, meaning that as a result of these changes, very few COVID-related deaths will be reported to OSHA.
“As the pandemic continues unabated in this country, this change by OSHA undermines its mission to assure safe and healthful working conditions for workers,” the Members wrote. “By cutting off the employer’s duty to notify OSHA regarding workplace outbreaks, the agency will lose the ability to follow up on workplace outbreaks with enforcement or compliance assistance activity. This change will also cause significant damage to our nation’s capacity to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.”
The Members are requesting a detailed description of OSHA’s justification for making changes to the reporting requirements, as well as communication between OSHA and the Department of Labor or outside parties on this issue.
To read the full letter, click here.
Congresswoman Alma Adams represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District (Charlotte) and serves as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture. Additionally, she serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Education & Labor Committee, where she serves as Chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee.