What a difference a pandemic makes. Every day there are new rules and challenges keeping safety and risk management professionals on a high alert. The COVID-19 crisis is far from predictable.
One question plaguing risk and safety professionals is whether or not an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable. Like everything about this pandemic, the answer to that seemingly simple question is fluid.
Back in early March 2020, OSHA issued general guidance on COVID-19 for employers. The guidance contained a very general statement about tracking COVID-19 cases and recording them in compliance with OSHA's record-keeping standards. This one seemingly benign statement sent employers into a flurry of questions. OSHA has recently attempted to provide clarification by posing guidance questions and answers.
COVID-19: Recordable on the OSHA 300 Log
Is an employee confirmed with COVID-19 recordable on the OSHA 300 Log? Work-related injuries or illnesses are recordable under certain circumstances. But it should be noted that not all employers are required to maintain records of work-related injuries and illness. Some employers are exempt based on their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Assuming the organization is required to maintain work-related injury and illness records, if there is an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 where the work environment was likely the cause or contributing factor of the illness, then the COVID-19 case may be recordable if one of the following occurs.
Medical treatment (beyond first aid) is provided, such as prescription medication is issued.
Restricted duty is imposed by the treating physician or the employer.
Days away from work (lost time) is imposed by the treating physician (the employee is kept from work and cannot work at home due to the virus).
Given what we know about the virus currently, it is more likely that medical treatment or days away (lost time) will occur with COVID-19.
Here is what OSHA has specifically said on the recording of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. Due to the contagious nature of the virus, it will be very difficult to determine where a person was infected. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are met.
The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work).
COVID-19: Reportable to OSHA
Is an employee confirmed with COVID-19 reportable to OSHA? The only way a COVID-19 case would be reportable to OSHA would be if the employee passes away or is hospitalized as an inpatient (outpatient hospitalizations are not reportable to OSHA) as a result of COVID-19 contracted from performing work-related duties. The normal criteria for reporting severe injuries applies even to COVID-19 cases. Employers must report any worker fatality within 8 hours of the incident. They must also report any amputation, loss of an eye, or hospitalization of a worker within 24 hours. Exempt employers must report a severe injury if it meets this criterion as well.
COVID-19: Compensable under Workers Compensation/OSHA Recordable
If the case is covered and deemed compensable under workers compensation, is it OSHA recordable? OSHA recordable and compensability under a workers compensation claim are two separate issues and have no bearing on each other. If an employee files a claim for workers compensation for a COVID-19-related illness, it should have no bearing whatsoever on whether it is deemed OSHA recordable by the employer.
In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, employers other than those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work. Until further notice, according to the directive by Deputy Assistant Secretary Amanda Edens, OSHA will not enforce its record-keeping requirements to require these employers to make work-related determinations for COVID-19 cases, except where the following occurs.
There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related.
The evidence was 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.
OSHA's enforcement policy will provide certainty to the regulated community and help employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces and otherwise mitigating COVID-19's effects.
OSHA recently issued 10 best practices for employees to follow to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This document should be displayed at all workplaces and reviewed with all employees.
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