Further guidance on RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19

This guidance is for the person doing the reporting. This is usually the employer, also known as the 'responsible person'.

You should read RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 before using this detailed guidance.

This guidance provides further detail to help decide if you need to make a report.

It provides some principles you can use when making your judgment.

Dangerous occurrences: what the law says

The list of dangerous occurrences in Schedule 2 of RIDDOR includes the requirement for the responsible person (usually the employer) to report any accident or incident which results - or could have resulted - in the release or escape of a biological agent likely to cause severe human infection or illness. This includes coronavirus (COVID-19).

A dangerous occurrence means an occurrence which arises out of or in connection with work. It includes occurrences attributable to:

  • the manner of conducting an undertaking
  • the plant or substances used for the purposes of an undertaking
  • the condition of the premises used for an undertaking, or any part of those premises

The responsible person should notify the enforcing authority as quickly as possible.

They must also send a report within 10 days. RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19.

Is the incident reportable as a dangerous occurrence?

Each situation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

There are some generic examples below.

Reportable

  • a laboratory worker accidentally smashes a vial containing coronavirus on the floor (outside a microbiological safety cabinet). This leads to people being exposed to the virus.
  • a sample from a COVID-19 patient breaks in transit, leading to spillage

Not reportable

  • a worker - for example a police officer or prison officer - is deliberately coughed or spat on by someone with unknown COVID-19 status.
  • a health or social care worker is looking after someone who is not known to be COVID-19 positive. The patient or service user subsequently tests positive.

Cases of disease, exposure to a biological agent: what the law says

RIDDOR regulation 9 (b) says when, in relation to a person at work, the responsible person (usually an employer) receives a diagnosis of any disease attributed to an occupational exposure to a biological agent, the responsible person must follow the reporting procedure.

Reasonable evidence of occupational exposure

When deciding if a report is required, the responsible person must make a judgment, based on the information available, as to whether or not a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is likely to have been caused by an occupational exposure.

This means the responsible person should decide if there is reasonable evidence that work-related exposure is the likely cause of the disease.

Although you should consider everything on a case-by-case basis, there are some general principles that can help with your judgment.

There must be reasonable evidence linking the nature of the person's work with an increased risk of becoming exposed to COVID-19.

Factors to consider when making this decision could include:

  • whether or not the nature of the person's work activities increased the risk of them becoming exposed to COVID-19
  • whether or not there was any specific, identifiable incident that led to an increased risk of exposure
  • whether or not the person's work directly brought them into contact with a known COVID-19 hazard without effective control measures in place.

There may also be cases where a registered medical practitioner has highlighted the significance of work-related factors when communicating a diagnosis of COVID-19. These cases would also be reportable.

Additionally - for an occupational exposure to be judged as the likely cause of the disease - it should be more likely than not that the person's work was the source of exposure to COVID-19.

Cases like this may not be easy to identify when COVID-19 is present in the general population.

Work with the general public – rather than work with people known to be infected - is not considered sufficient evidence to indicate that a COVID-19 diagnosis may be as a result of occupational exposure.

You don’t need to report cases like this.

Responsible persons do not need to conduct extensive enquiries to decide whether a COVID-19 infection is work-related.

You should base your judgment on the information available. There is no requirement for RIDDOR reports to be submitted on a precautionary basis.

A precautionary RIDDOR report would be one where there is no evidence to suggest that occupational exposure was the likely cause of an infection.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis normally means a registered medical practitioner's identification (in writing, when in relation to an employee) of new or worsening symptoms. 

Unlike with usual diagnosis of occupational disease, many cases of COVID-19 are currently being confirmed without a registered medical practitioner's written diagnosis - on the basis of laboratory test results, for example.

In the current highly unusual circumstances we do not require confirmation of results like these by a registered medical practitioner before you make a report under RIDDOR. 

Responsible persons should consider any official confirmation of COVID-19 infection - such as from a public testing body - as being equivalent to a registered medical practitioner's diagnosis.

Work-related deaths due to occupational exposure to a biological agent: what the law says

RIDDOR regulation 6 (2) requires responsible persons (usually employers) to report the death of any worker as a result of occupational exposure to a biological agent.

Reasonable evidence of occupational exposure

For a death to be reportable under RIDDOR there must be reasonable evidence that the death was caused by an occupational exposure to COVID-19.

The responsible person must make a judgment, based on the information available, as to whether a confirmed COVID-19 death has been caused by an occupational exposure to COVID-19 resulting from the person's work.

The factors that should be considered when assessing reasonable evidence of occupational exposure are the same for work-related deaths as for disease reporting.

Cause of death

To require a RIDDOR report, the death must be caused by an occupational exposure to COVID-19.

This means that, for deaths reported as a result of COVID-19, the disease must have been a significant cause of the person's death.

Medical evidence (such as a death certificate) is likely to be important when deciding whether a report is required.

This judgment should be made on the basis of the evidence available. 

Deaths following an existing case of disease report

Where a worker dies from COVID-19 - and a RIDDOR report has already been submitted for a case of disease -  the original report can be amended by submitting a duplicate form.

You should resubmit all relevant information, with any changes.

Within the 'Describe what happened' box, the phrase 'Amendment to Incident Reference Number {Original Notification No.}' should be inserted, followed by confirmation that the infection has resulted in death.

We review and update this page regularly to reflect any changes in guidance.

Page last reviewed: 19 July 2021

Next review due: 31 July 2021

2021-07-15