The state of New Mexico has issued an emergency amendment to its regulation requiring the reporting of workplace injuries. Employers must now immediately tell the state about employees who test positive for COVID-19.
How to Report Positive Test
Those of us living in New Mexico have become accustomed to seeing COVID-19 updates from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and officials with the state’s department of health. However, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), which administers the state’s duties under the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Act, is primarily charged with regulating employers during the pandemic. Among other things, the NMED runs the rapid response program that tracks virus cases and performs contact tracing.
The NMED’s regulations have historically required employers to report workplace injuries. The agency recently issued an emergency amendment to its regulation dealing specifically with COVD cases: If an employer learns an employee has tested positive for the virus, it must report the case within four hours of being told about it. Here is where to report the case:
- Phone: 505-476-8700
- Fax: 505-476-8734
- E-mail: NMENV-OSHA@state.nm.us
I recommend making any reports by fax or e-mail so they’re documented. This emergency amendment is in effect until December 3, 2020.
What Happens After Case Is Reported
After reporting a coronavirus-positive employee, employers can expect to be contacted by the NMED as part of its rapid response program. The agency will work with your company to determine the level of response required, which can range from a very minor disruption, such as isolating certain employees or having people work remotely, to ceasing operations completely. The response will depend on the nature of your operations.
State officials have said publicly the rapid response program is aimed at balancing a company’s needs with that of public health. To that end, you should discuss your needs with the NMED and be empowered to negotiate and make counterproposals if the agency proposes a response you think is unreasonable.
An employee who tests positive for COVID-19 is nearly certain to disrupt your business operations, but you’re now legally required to report a new coronavirus case virtually immediately. My advice is to work with the NMED’s rapid response program, but don’t be afraid to push back if the agency’s proposal is too severe.