Are Employers Responsible for Recording COVID-19?

OSHA still considers COVID-19 to be a recordable illness, much like any other illness that an employee may get.  When it comes to recording if an employee misses work due to COVID-19, an employer may be responsible for recording it on their 300 log.

Here are the cases where it should be recorded:

  1. The illness is confirmed to be COVID-19
  2. The illness is confirmed to be work-related, meaning the employer can confirm the illness was contracted in the work environment, and not outside of work
  3. The illness meets the normal recording criteria under the recordkeeping standard such as medical treatment beyond First Aid, days away from work, etc.

How can you Determine Where an Employee Contracted the Virus

The difficult aspect of this situation is determining if the employee was exposed in the work environment or outside of work.  It could be very likely that it happened outside of work unless a known outbreak has been reported in the work environment.

Due to the uncertainty, OSHA originally said that they would not enforce its recordkeeping requirements and make employers determine the work-relatedness of a COVID-19 case except when objective evidence is present and it was reasonable available. Only healthcare, emergency response and correctional institutions were expected to make work-relatedness determinations of COVID-19 cases.

Important Update

OSHA Will Enforce Recording Requirements for Confirmed COVID-19 Cases

Now, a new press release was issued on May 19 that provides guidelines for employers to use in order to determine if a confirmed COVID-19 case is work related.

The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness

OSHA does not expect employers to undertake extensive medical inquiries but suggest following these guidelines:

      1. Ask the employee how he believes he contracted the COVID-19 illness
      2. While respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee his work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness
      3. Review the employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure

The evidence available to the employer

Whatever information is 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’s Certified Safety & Health Officers (CSHO) will take the following information into consideration in order to determine if the employer has obtained enough evidence to fulfill its recording obligation. Keep in mind, this is not a perfect formula.

        • 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 (e.g., 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.
        • CSHOs should give due weight to any evidence of causation, pertaining to the employee illness, at issue provided by medical providers, public health authorities, or the employee herself.

How Employers Can Continue to Protect Employees

  1. Do your own research. Keep up with the news on the Coronavirus issues in your area and check with the experts by visiting the CDC’s website.
  2. Inform employees. Let your team know that you are following the news on the Coronavirus, forward this preventative tip flyer from the CDC, and take any reasonable measures you can to help prevent COVID-19. Provide them with a Pandemic Preparedness Plan and Training. Call Lancaster Safety at 866-842-2699 for more information.
  3. Encourage sick employees to stay at home. Having your team members stay at home when they’re sick shouldn’t be anything new but it is worth emphasizing. Sometimes employees don’t want to use their sick days or PTO and show up to work when they should have stayed at home – this is no time to push it! If employees show up to work sick, send them home or have them work remotely if possible.
  4. Clean, clean, clean. Disinfect your workplace (especially frequently touched surfaces), wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, cough/sneeze into your elbow (not your hands), avoid touching your face and other surfaces where germs are likely to spread.
  5. Advise employees before traveling. The CDC has a dedicated webpage for travelers. This webpage allows people to research the area they are traveling to and offers recommendations and guidelines accordingly.
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