Q26 - Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Question: 

An employee becomes ill at work and is taken to a clinic for evaluation. The employee is confirmed infected with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and is provided medical treatment and quarantined in the hospital. It is believed they contracted the virus outside of the work environment. Is it recordable?

 

Two weeks later, 1 other employee who worked in close proximity with the now-quarantined employee also tested positive for COVID-19 and is voluntarily quarantined at home but does not receive medical treatment or a recommendation for time off work. It is believed they contracted the virus at work from their coworker. Is it recordable?  

A third employee is tested positive with COVID-19 and is believed to have contracted the virus on the job. They receive medical treatment beyond first aid and a recommendation of time away from work from a healthcare professional. Is it recordable?

UPDATE: Employers do not need to make determinations of work-relatedness except where there is objective evidence that a case may be work-related and the evidence is available to the employer. This negates the presumption of work-relatedness for confirmed COVID-19 cases. See the update below and also on OSHA's website here.

Answer:

NO, NO and YES. The first employee did not contract the virus in the work environment and therefore it is not recordable. The second employee did contract the virus in the work environment but did not receive medical treatment and therefore it is not recordable. The third employee contracted the virus from work and did receive medical treatment and time off work and therefore is recordable.

 

OSHA Safety and Health Topics/COVID 19, Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

OSHA Safety and Health Topics/COVID 19: 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 met:

  1. 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);

  2. The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and

  3. 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).

Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

This memorandum provides interim guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for enforcing the requirements of 29 CFR Part 1904 with respect to the recording of occupational illnesses, specifically cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. This guidance is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis. Please frequently check OSHA’s webpage at www.osha.gov/coronavirus for updates.

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);[1] (2) the case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5;[2] and (3) the case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7.[3] On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and the extent of transmission is a rapidly evolving issue.

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. In light of those difficulties, OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion in order to provide certainty to the regulated community.

Employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions must continue to make work-relatedness determinations pursuant to 29 CFR § 1904. Until further notice, however, OSHA will not enforce 29 CFR § 1904 to require other employers to make the same work-relatedness determinations, except where:

  1. There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related. This could include, for example, a number of cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation; and

  2. The evidence was reasonably available to the employer. For purposes of this memorandum, 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.
     

This enforcement policy will help employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces, and otherwise mitigating COVID-19’s effects, rather than on making difficult work-relatedness decisions in circumstances where there is community transmission.

CSHOs will generally refer to CPL 02-00-135, Recordkeeping Policies and Procedures Manual (Dec. 30, 2004) and CPL 02-00-163, Field Operations Manual (FOM) (Sept. 13, 2019), Chapters 3 and 6, as applicable.[4],5] The following additional specific enforcement guidance is provided for CSHOs:

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and should be coded as such on the OSHA Form 300. Because this is an illness, if an employee voluntarily requests that his or her name not be entered on the log, the employer must comply as specified under 29 CFR § 1904.29(b)(7)(vi).

Additional COVID-19 Resources:

Sample Language for COVID Communication

The Sky (PROBABLY) Isn't Falling

CDC Pandemic Flu Checklist

CDC Self-Monitoring Guidance

 

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