On April 10, 2020, OSHA published interim guidance regarding the enforcement of employers’ obligation to record and report employees’ COVID-19 cases.
The OSHA guidance recognizes that determining whether an employee contracted COVID-19 at work will often be difficult, and because of this, relaxed COVID-19-related recordkeeping obligations for many employers.
However, for employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, law enforcement services), and correctional institutions, COVID-19 is a recordable illness.
These employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the CDC
- The case is work-related as defined by the OSHA standard on recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses 29 CFR 1904.5 and
- The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.
For other employers, including biotech and pharmaceutical companies, OSHA will not enforce the requirement to make the same work-relatedness determinations related to COVID-19 cases and will therefore not enforce record keeping requirements.
Exceptions to this are:
- When there is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related. This could include, for example, several cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation; and
- If the evidence was reasonably available to the employer. Examples include information given to the employer by employees, as well as information that an employer learns regarding its employees’ health and safety in the ordinary course of managing its business and employees.
In these instances, employers would be required to record work-related COVID-19 cases using OSHA Forms 300, 301, and 300A unless exempt because of size (less than 10 employees) and NAICS Code.
It should be noted that even exempt organizations must report work-related COVID-19 cases that result in in-patient hospitalization (within 24 hours) or death (within 8 hours).
OSHA’s goal in relaxing enforcement on many employers is to allow companies to focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene and other work and personal protective equipment practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, rather than having to focus on making difficult work-relatedness decisions in circumstances requiring them to differentiate between community and work-related transmission. For more information on COVID-19-related OSHA recording and reporting requirements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.