Is COVID-19 Considered A Recordable Case For OSHA Recordkeeping Purposes?

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Many employers are currently asking themselves an important question:  Do I need to record employee cases of COVID-19 on my OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping logs?

The answer to this question depends on each specific situation.  In May 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a guidance memorandum to help employers make COVID-19 recordkeeping determinations.  An employer will need to take action to determine whether employee COVID-19 illnesses are work-related and thus recordable.

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (an individual with at least one respiratory specimen that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19);
  2. The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7.

Once the first step is complete and the illness is confirmed to be COVID-19, an employer must next determine if it was work-related.  An injury or illness is considered to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment (as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5(b)(1)) either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.

Because it may be difficult to determine work-relatedness, OSHA will consider the following factors:

  • The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness. Employers should not be expected to undertake extensive medical inquiries. It is sufficient in most circumstances for the employer, (1) to ask the employee how they believe they contracted the COVID-19 illness; (2) while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee their work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness; and (3) review the employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure.
  • The evidence available to the employer. The evidence that a COVID-19 illness was work-related should be considered based on the information reasonably available to the employer at the time it made its work-relatedness determination. If the employer later learns more information related to an employee’s COVID-19 illness, then that information should be taken into account as well in determining whether an employer made a reasonable work-relatedness determination.
  • The evidence that a COVID-19 illness was contracted at work. OSHA will take into account all reasonably available evidence, in the manner described above, to determine whether an employer has complied with its recording obligation.

If after a reasonable and good faith effort was made and the employer cannot determine that the case was work-related, the employer does not need to record the COVID-19 illness.

If the case has been determined to be work-related, an employer must then determine if the case meets general recording criteria.  An injury or illness meets the general recording criteria if it results in any of the following: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.  Refer to 29 CFR 1904.7 to make the determination.

For more information refer to the May 2020 memorandum.  Also, frequently check OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage for updates.

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