OSHA Releases Enforcement Guidance on Recording COVID-19 Cases

On April 10th, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim guidance for enforcing OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements (29 CFR Part 1904) as it relates to recording cases of COVID-19.

Overview of OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements

Under OSHA recordkeeping rules, many employers with more than 10 employees are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. (Some low-risk industries are exempted from the recordkeeping rule.) Examples of work-related injuries or illnesses that must be recorded include:

  • Any work-related fatality.
  • Any work-related injury or illness that results in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job.
  • Any work-related injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Any work-related diagnosed case of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth, and punctured eardrums.

The records must be maintained at the worksite for at least five years and, each February through April, employers must post a summary of the injuries and illnesses recorded the previous year. Also, if requested, copies of the records must be provided to current and former employees, or their representatives.

Recording COVID-19 Cases

Due to the wide scope of the current global pandemic, OSHA has announced that COVID-19 is now considered a recordable workplace illness and that employers are responsible for reporting cases of the virus if the following benchmarks are met:

  • The case is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness;
  • The case is work-related (i.e. an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness) as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  • The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria found in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

OSHA does realize, however, that in areas where there is ongoing community COVID-19 transmission, employers other than those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposure at work. Accordingly, until further notice, OSHA will not enforce its recordkeeping requirements to require these employers to make work-relatedness determinations for COVID-19 cases, except where:

(1) There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related; and

(2) The evidence is reasonably available to the employer. Employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions must continue to make work-relatedness determinations pursuant to 29 CFR Part 1904.

The guidance took effect the date of release (April 10th, 2020) and, even though it is intended to be time-limited for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, will remain in effect until further notice.

NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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