OSHA requires employers to log work-related cases of COVID-19

OSHA requires employers to log work-related cases of COVID-19

In updated guidance released on May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated that employers must record confirmed, work-related cases of COVID-19 on OSHA Form 300, the form used to record workplace illnesses and injuries.

Under the new guidance, an employer must log a worker’s case of COVID-19 if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The illness is a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  2. The illness is work-related.
  3. The illness involved days away from work, restricted duties, transfer to another job, medical care beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, a healthcare provider’s diagnosis of a significant illness, or death.

For employers, determining whether a worker’s illness was “work-related” is likely to be a difficult task. Still, OSHA requires employers to make “reasonable efforts” to determine whether the illness was contracted at work.

OSHA’s enforcement team will weigh the following considerations in determining whether the employer’s efforts were reasonable:

  • The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness. In most cases, this includes (1) asking the employee how they believe the contracted the disease; (2) discussing with the employee the work and out-of-work activities that could have led to the illness; and (3) reviewing the employee’s workplace environment to determine the risk of exposure.
  • The evidence available to the employer. The work-relatedness assessment should be based on evidence reasonably available to the employer at the time it makes its decision. If new evidence comes to light, the employer must take it into account.
  • The evidence that a COVID-19 illness was contracted at work.

To assess the likelihood that an illness was contracted at work, OSHA provides several rules of thumb for employers:

  • COVID-19 illnesses are likely work-related when several cases develop among workers who work closely together and there is no alternative explanation.
  • An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely work-related if it is contracted shortly after lengthy, close exposure to a particular customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and there is no alternative explanation.
  • An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely work-related if his job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission and there is no alternative explanation.
  • An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely not work-related if she is the only worker to contract COVID-19 in her vicinity and her job duties do not include having frequent contact with the general public, regardless of the rate of community spread.
  • An employee’s COVID-19 illness is likely not work-related if he, outside the workplace, closely and frequently associates with someone (for example, a family member, significant other, or close friend) who (1) has COVID-19; (2) is not a coworker, and (3) exposes the employee during the period in which the individual is likely infectious.
  • OSHA enforcement officers should consider causation evidence pertaining to the employee illness provided by medical providers, public health authorities, or the employee.

If the employer still can’t determine, after a reasonable and good-faith effort, whether it’s more likely than not that a particular case of COVID-19 is work-related, it isn’t required to record the illness. Note that recording a COVID-19 illness (or any other illness or injury) on Form 300, by itself, doesn’t mean the employer has broken OSHA rules.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees and those in certain industries generally only need to report work-related COVID-19 cases that result in death or in-patient hospitalization.

Read the full guidance.

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