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Further guidance on RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19

This guidance is for the person reporting, usually the employer (known as the ‘responsible person’). You should follow the RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 guidance on what to report before using this detailed guidance.

HSE accepts that these are not easy criteria to apply in the unusual circumstances presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This guidance gives further detail to help you determine if you need to make a report and provides some principles to use when assessing the information available and making your judgement. It has been developed to assist responsible persons in determining whether reports need to be made. 

Dangerous Occurrences: What the law says

The list of dangerous occurrences in Schedule 2 of RIDDOR includes the requirement for the responsible person (usually employers) 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 including coronavirus.

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

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

The responsible person should notify the enforcing authority by the quickest practicable means, without delay, and send a report within 10 days. RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19.

Is the incident reportable as a dangerous occurrence?

Each situation has to be assessed on a case by case basis, and the following provides some generic examples:

Reportable

  • a laboratory worker accidentally smashes a vial containing coronavirus on the floor (i.e. outside of a microbiological safety cabinet), leading to people being exposed
  • 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 on or spat at by a person of unknown COVID-19 status
  • a health or social care worker is providing treatment or care to a patient or service user who is not known to be COVID-19 positive, but 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 where, 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 judgement, 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, i.e. whether or not there is reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure is the likely cause of the disease. Whilst this should be considered on a case by case basis, there are some general principles which can assist in making this judgement.

There must be reasonable evidence linking the nature of the person’s work with an increased risk of becoming exposed to coronavirus.

Factors to take into account 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 coronavirus?
  • 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 coronavirus hazard without effective control measures, as set out in the relevant PHE guidance, in place such as personal protective equipment (PPE) or social distancing

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

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 coronavirus as opposed to general societal exposure. Such cases may not be easy to identify when COVID-19 is prevalent in the general population.

Work with the general public, as opposed to work with persons known to be infected, is not considered sufficient evidence to indicate that a COVID-19 diagnosis is likely to be attributable to occupational exposure.  Such cases do not require a report.

Responsible persons do not need to conduct extensive enquiries in seeking to determine whether a COVID-19 infection is work-related. The judgement should be made on the basis of the information available. There is no requirement for RIDDOR reports to be submitted on a precautionary basis, 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, where 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, for example, on the basis of laboratory test results. HSE has decided to adopt a pragmatic approach in the current highly unusual circumstances and not require those results to be confirmed by a registered medical practitioner before a report is made 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 coronavirus.

The responsible person must make a judgement, based on the information available, as to whether a confirmed COVID-19 death has been caused by an occupational exposure to coronavirus resulting from the person’s work. The factors that should be considered when assessing reasonable evidence of occupational exposure as 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 coronavirus, that is, for COVID-19 reported deaths, the disease must have been a significant cause of the person’s death.

Medical evidence such as death certificates are likely to be an important consideration when determining whether a report is required.

This judgement 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, this can be amended by submitting a duplicate form. All relevant information should be resubmitted, 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.

2020-06-11