If workers come down with COVID-19 (coronavirus), most employers don’t have to assess whether their illness was work-related for purposes of OSHA recordkeeping requirements, according to enforcement guidance released by OSHA on April 10, 2020. Employers must record work-related illnesses on the OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). OSHA’s guidance acknowledges that in geographic areas where community transmission of COVID-19 is occurring, it can be difficult for employers to know whether their employees contracted the virus at work unless they’re in health care industries, emergency response organizations, or correctional institutions.
Employers outside of those three industries are now excused from assessing whether an employee’s case of COVID-19 should be recorded on the OSHA 300 log, with two important exceptions: (1) You have objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related, such as when coworkers who work in close proximity to each other become ill without an alternative explanation; or (2) The evidence is reasonably available to you as the employer, such as information provided by employees or other information you learn about employees’ health and safety in the ordinary course of managing your workforce.
If one of those exceptions applies, then you’ll need to determine whether the case should be recorded on your OSHA 300 log. You must record a COVID-19 case if you answer “yes” to all three of these questions: (1) Was the illness confirmed to be COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? (2) Is the case “work-related” as defined in the OSHA regulations at 29 CFR 1904.5? and (3) Does the case involve one or more of the general recording criteria listed in the OSHA regulations at 29 CFR 1904.7?
Tips For Employers: In most situations, OSHA’s guidance lets you off the hook from investigating whether a COVID-19 illness among your workers happened on the job. But you can’t ignore obvious facts, either. For example, if two workers come down with the virus a few days apart and the second one says the first coworker sneezed on them, that’s likely enough to trigger your obligation to determine whether the second case was work-related. Also, keep in mind that for illnesses, an employee can ask you to keep their name off the OSHA 300 log. For help determining whether an illness is recordable, talk with your Vigilant safety professional.