Coronavirus (COVID-19) and OSHA Recordkeeping: Explained

covid

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a fluid and constantly evolving situation that will require employers to be flexible.  We all must commit to staying up to date with the latest developments from public health and government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Labor (DOL), and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Staying informed is critical, since specific guidance may change based upon evolving outbreak situations. We wanted to communicate an important update from OSHA regarding COVID-19 and the agency’s recordkeeping requirements that employers might not be aware of.

Numerous organizations rely on Vector EHS Management Software to maintain their OSHA recordkeeping logs.

Learn more how our software can save you valuable time and effort in analyzing and reducing incidents in the workplace.

Read additional guidance on Covid-19 for EHS Managers 

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Is your organization required to keep OSHA logs?

First, before moving any further with discussing recording COVID-19 case, you should determine whether you are actually required by OSHA to maintain recordkeeping logs of occupational injuries and illnesses. For example, if your organization has 10 or fewer employees — including temporary and contract workers, you are not required to comply with OSHA’s recordkeeping regulations. In addition, some employers in low-risk industries are exempt based on their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes.

Only organizations in high-risk industries with over 10 employees are required to track work-related employee injuries and illnesses on OSHA’s three recordkeeping logs. These logs are also known as OSHA Forms 300, Form 301, and 300A.

If you’re still unsure whether your organization needs to maintain these OSHA logs, we suggest you check out our more detailed, ultimate guide to OSHA recordkeeping.

Is an employee confirmed with COVID-19 recordable on the OSHA Form 300 Log?

Assuming your organization is required to maintain work-related injury and illness records, if there has been a confirmed case of an employee contracting COVID-19 in which their work environment was likely the cause or contributing factor of the illness, then the case might be recordable if one of the following circumstances occur:

  • Medical treatment (beyond first aid) is provided. It's likely that medical treatment or days away (lost time) will occur with COVID-19 cases; OR
  • Restricted work is imposed by the employee's treating physician or your employer; OR
  • Days away from work (lost time) are imposed by the treating physician. In other words, if the employee is kept from work and cannot work at home due to the virus; AND
  • The illness is a confirmed case of COVID-19. See the CDC’s information for clarification on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19;
  • The case has been determined to be work-related.

it can be difficult to definitively determine whether a case of COVID-19 originated from exposure in the workplace. As a result, OSHA has issued guidance on determining work-relatedness for COVID-19 illnesses. For more on that, read on to the next section.

OSHA's Guidance on COVID-19 and Work-Relatedness

On April 10, 2020, OSHA indicated that it would be exercising “enforcement discretion” and focusing COVID-19 recordkeeping requirements in the healthcare, emergency response, and correctional institution fields only—except where there was objective evidence reasonably available to an employer that a COVID-19 case was work-related.

However, in a recently issued memorandum, the agency has since rescinded this guidance and states that all employers subject to its illness record-keeping rules must now track and report workplace COVID-19 cases if the following three criteria are met:

  1. The COVID-19 case is confirmed (as defined by the CDC);
  2. The case is work-related (as defined by 29 C.F.R. § 1904.5); and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria (as set forth in 29 C.F.R. § 1904.7).

OSHA reasons that confirmed COVID-19 cases have now been found in nearly all parts of the country and among many industries, and that employers are presently more capable of adapting to new ways of doing business and evolving their COVID-19 response efforts.

Nevertheless, the agency still acknowledges the difficulty in determining work-relatedness of cases, and will thus continue to exercise enforcement discretion with regard to the employer’s work-related determinations. OSHA's key considerations will be:

  • The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness;
  • the evidence available to the employer;
  • and the evidence that a COVID-19 illness was contracted at work.

If the case is recordable, can it be considered a privacy case and kept on a separate log?

As a refresher, an incident is considered a privacy case if it involves any of the following circumstances:

  • An injury or illness to an intimate body part or the reproductive system;
  • An injury or illness resulting from a sexual assault;
  • Mental illnesses
  • HIV infection, hepatitis, or tuberculosis;
  • Needlestick injuries and cuts from sharp objects that are contaminated with another person's blood or other potentially infectious material

So, technically no, as privacy cases are defined very specifically in OSHA’s regulations, a COVID-19 exposure case does not meet that definition.

Are adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine recordable?

In April 2021, OSHA issued new frequently asked questions (FAQs) on recording illnesses. The FAQs state that, in general, an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine is recordable if the reaction is work-related, a new case, and meets one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7.

In addition, if employers require employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment (i.e., for work-related reasons), then any adverse reaction to the vaccine is work-related. Adverse reactions are recordable if they are new cases under 29 CFR 1904.6 and meet one or more of the general reporting criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7.

OSHA is not currently requiring employers to record adverse effects from COVID-19 vaccines that are recommended, but not required.

Is an employee confirmed with COVD-19 reportable to OSHA?

Yes, OSHA’s normal criteria for reporting severe illnesses applies to work-related, confirmed COVID-19 cases.

It should be noted that employers are required to report a severe illness if it meets this criterion to OSHA, even if they are exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping rule.

Reporting Work-Related, Confirmed, In-Patient Hospitalizations

Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), employers are required to report in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA if the hospitalization "occurs within twenty-four (24) hours of the work-related incident."

For cases of COVID-19, the term "incident" means an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace. Therefore, in order to be reportable, an in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work.

The employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been in-patient hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19.

So, if an employer learns that an employee was in-patient hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the in-patient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within 24 hours of that determination.

Reporting Work-Related, Confirmed, Fatalities

Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), an employer must "report a fatality to OSHA if the fatality occurs within thirty (30) days of the work-related incident."

For cases of COVID-19, the term "incident" means an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace. Therefore, in order to be reportable, a fatality due to COVID-19 must occur within 30 days of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work.

The employer must report the fatality within eight hours of knowing both that the employee has died, and that the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19.

Thus, if an employer learns that an employee died within 30 days of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the death was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within eight hours of that determination.

The Bottom Line: Why is it important to track exposures to COVID-19?

Recording and tracking COVID-19 Exposures allows safety professionals to:

  • Identify locations where COVID-19 exposures have taken place to take proactive measures to protect at-risk employees
  • Monitor conditions of exposed employees for symptoms of COVID-19 that may not appear for up to 14 days after exposure.
  • Document test results of exposed employees.
  • Maintain OSHA Compliance for injury & illness recordkeeping purposes if employees contract COVID-19 during work-related activities.
    • This is particularly important for recording missed days of work due to quarantine and treatment.

We hope that you found this blog article to be helpful. For more information on how EHS managers can address and manage COVID-19 in their workplaces, see our first post in this series.

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