Many facilities did not report healthcare worker deaths during pandemic, KHN analysis shows

A number of employers decided internally not to report healthcare worker deaths to occupational safety officials during the pandemic, many times because they deemed the deaths not work-related, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. 

The analysis examined healthcare worker deaths profiled for KHN and The Guardian's Lost on the Frontline project, which tracks healthcare worker COVID-19 deaths. As of Nov. 30, 1,413 healthcare worker deaths were under investigation by the news organizations. 

In analyzing more than 240 of the healthcare worker deaths profiled as part of the project, KHN found employers did not report more than one-third of the deaths to a state or federal OSHA office.The deaths occurred at more than 100 healthcare facilities where there was no OSHA record of an ongoing fatality investigation.  

An OSHA spokesperson told Becker's employers must notify OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality or within 24 hours of any work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. If a healthcare worker dies of a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19, under OSHA policy, an employer must report a fatality to workplace safety regulators if the death occurs within 30 days of the work-related exposure to the virus, the spokesperson said. The death must be reported within eight hours of learning of the fatality.

Facilities that do not comply with OSHA rules may receive a citation for not reporting a COVID-19 death. As of  Nov. 5, federal OSHA offices issued 63 such citations, according to data reviewed by KHN

Still, some healthcare employers told KHN they did not report worker deaths because they could not prove the worker was exposed on-site, and others cited privacy concerns and did not provide an explanation. KHN said others did not respond to its requests for comment or told the news organization they followed government policies.

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