OSHA: Is Coronavirus Recordable or Reportable?

osha coronavirus
In the face of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we all live in a new normal where simple human proximity is a health and safety hazard. This presents EHS managers with a particularly unique set of problems. As workers call in sick or become hospitalized, you aren't just worried about well-wishes. You're also responsible for determining when and if coronavirus cases go in the OSHA 300 log. Your first thought might be 'no.' After all, common cold and flu cases are exempt from recordkeeping requirements, even if an employee contracts the virus at work. You'd be wrong.

What OSHA Says About Recording a Confirmed COVID-19 Case

OSHA has spoken:
COVID-19 "can be" recordable and reportable when the case meets certain criteria.

When is COVID-19 a Recordable Illness for OSHA?

To be considered a recordable illness, an employee's coronavirus case has to meet all of the following conditions:
  • COVID-19 is confirmed as the cause, using the CDC's definition of confirmation
    • he employee must have at least one respiratory specimen that tested positive for novel coronavirus in a laboratory using an FDA-validated test.
  • The case involves at least one outcome listed under 29 CFR 1904.7:
    • Death
    • Days away from work, Restricted work, or Transfer to another job (DART)
    • Medical treatment beyond first aid
    • Loss of consciousness, and/or
    • Significant injury or illness diagnosed by a licensed health care professional
  • The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5
For coronavirus, that last requirement is the sticking point and largest cause of confusion.

When Does OSHA Consider COVID-19 a Work-Related Illness?

If your employee was one of the earliest cases of coronavirus, tracing the source of infection may be possible. But by now, we know a few things that make a definitive answer difficult:
  • The COVID-19 virus is circulating freely in the general U.S. population;
  • The time between infection and symptoms (the incubation period) can be anywhere from two to 14 days
  • Asymptomatic people can spread the virus
So what do you do when you can't identify how, where, and when someone contracts coronavirus? In past letters of interpretation, OSHA has addressed situations where it's unclear if the cause of an illness is work-related. They've said employers should evaluate the employee's work duties and environment then decide whether it is "more likely than not" that their work caused or contributed to the condition. You may find it helpful to read OSHA's guidelines on classifying exposure risk in the workplace.

Should a Business Record an Employee Confirmed with Coronavirus on the OSHA 300 Log?

First of all, businesses with ten employees or less are not required to keep injury and illness records like an OSHA 300 log. Neither are businesses that operate in certain low-risk industries unless they're asked to do so (in writing) by OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), or a state agency operating under their authority. Exemptions apply to many sectors of the retail, service, and medical industries. If your business falls under these exemptions, you don't have to worry about an OSHA 300 log at all (though reporting requirements remain – see below). If your business is subject to OSHA's recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 cases must be recorded in the OSHA 300 log if they are confirmed, work-related, and result in one of the unfortunate outcomes listed under 29 CFR 1904.7.

Should a Business Report an Employee Confirmed with Coronavirus to OSHA?

Any work-related injury or illness is reportable to OSHA if the employee dies, is hospitalized as an in-patient, or experiences amputation or the loss of an eye. These incidents must be reported, even if you belong to an industry that is exempt from recordkeeping.

What does that mean for COVID-19 cases?

You must report a coronavirus case to OSHA when it:
  • Results in death or in-patient hospitalization, AND
  • Was "more likely than not" to be contracted while performing work-related duties
Fatalities from work-related coronavirus must be reported to OSHA within eight (8) hours. In-patient hospitalizations must be reported within 24 hours. Outpatient hospitalizations don't need to be reported.

Find More Information on What OSHA Says About COVID-19

The COVID-19 section of OSHA's website is full of useful information, including relevant standards and recommendations for coronavirus safety in the workplace. State and local governments will also have region-specific updates that can help you make informed decisions for occupational health and safety. To learn more about workplace safety for construction workers, take our OSHA 10 Hour Construction course.

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