By: Sean T. Devenney
On its website, OSHA made it very clear that an employee’s COVID-19 infection could become a reportable and recordable OSHA events in certain circumstances. In particular, OSHA’s website as of April 13, 2020, provides:
OSHA recordkeeping requirements at 29 CFR Part 1904 mandate covered employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log.
COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are true:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19);
- The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
- 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, days away from work).
Some interpreted this guidance as a “default” setting, meaning that if an employee showed signs of COVID-19 at work, and the infection was ultimately documented, then it would have been a presumed work-related injury subject to the OSHA recording and reporting requirements. At a minimum, the employer was obligated to review the issue and make a factual determination as to whether the infection was work-related or not.
On April 10, 2020, OSHA clarified, stating in essence, that the default rule is that the employee DID NOT acquire the COVID-19 virus due to a work-related activity, and the employer does not need to make a formal factual inquiry to determine whether the infection was the result of a work-related exposure.
There are two notable exceptions to this rule. First, where there is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related, the employer may still have to record and/or report the COVID-19 transmission on its OSHA logs. According to OSHA this objective evidence “could include, for example, a number of cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation; and where the evidence for the transmission being work-related was reasonably available to the employer.” For OSHA purposes, “examples of reasonably available evidence include information given to the employer by employees, as well as information that an employer learns regarding its employees’ health and safety in the ordinary course of managing its business and employees.”
Second, employers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations and/or correctional institutions must still conduct an analysis of every case to determine whether the COVID-19 virus was acquired during work-related activities.
The April 10, 2020 Memo addressing the issue identified in this blog can be accessed here.
For questions regarding reporting and recording COVID-19, please contact your DSV attorney or Sean Devenney at firstname.lastname@example.org
***The information contained on this website is for informational purposes and is not intended as formal legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. No attorney client relationship is established or intended as a result of the information contained on this website.***