OSHA record-keeping considerations for workplace exposures to COVID-19

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released guidance to assist employers in preparing their workplaces for handling potential COVID-19 exposures.

While OSHA specifically exempts employers from recording incidents of employees contracting “common colds and the flu” in the workplace, the agency noted that COVID-19 is not exempt.

Listed below are some considerations for employers when determining OSHA recordability:

  • OSHA record-keeping requirements at 29 CFR Part 1904 mandate covered employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log.
  • OSHA’s record-keeping regulation 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2)(viii) exempts the “common cold and flu” from the record-keeping requirements. COVID-19, however, is not a common cold or flu. OSHA’s current guidance states that “COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job.”
  • 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 criteria are met:
    • 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, or job transfer).

Key takeaways

All cases may not be deemed recordable or work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5. It is important to conduct a comprehensive investigation in identifying whether the worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties.

Chris Halverson is risk management sales director and Eric Brown is a workers' compensation claims specialist and risk manager for M3 Insurance.

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