If you haven't been keeping up to date with OSHA's publications and updates at their Coronavirus/COVID-19 Safety and Health Topic webpage, you should.
There's been a lot going on their, including the release of a new COVID guidance in January, a new COVID-related National Emphasis Program, a newly updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan, and new questions and answers added to the COVID-19/FAQs page. So there's plenty to be aware of.
On top of all that, on May 19, 2021, OSHA published Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). We're going to walk you through the key points of this COVID-Recordkeeping guidance in this article.
Before we get started, it's worth calling out these two points:
So, with that introductory material covered, the basic criteria OSHA sets for an employer's responsibility to record & report COVID cases are:
OSHA's recent guidance goes into depth on determining if a case is "work-related" because, as OSHA explains, "Because of the difficulty with determining work-relatedness, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion to assess employers' efforts in making work-related determinations."
Below are criteria OSHA is having their field officers follow in determining if a COVID infection is work-related:
The reasonableness of the employer's investigation: OSHA explains "It is sufficient in most circumstances for the employer, when it learns of an employee's COVID-19 illness, (1) to ask the employee how he believes he contracted the COVID-19 illness; (2) while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee his work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness; and (3) review the employee's work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure. The review in (3) should be informed by any other instances of workers in that environment contracting COVID-19 illness."
The evidence available to the employer: "The evidence that a COVID-19 illness was work-related should be considered based on the information reasonably available to the employer at the time it made its work-relatedness determination."
Evidence the COVID infection was contracted at work: As OSHA explains, this can include "when several cases develop among workers who work closely together and there is no alternative explanation;" "if it is contracted shortly after lengthy, close exposure to a particular customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and there is no alternative explanation;" and "if the employee's job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission and there is no alternative explanation."
We hope you found that helpful.
If you're looking for more detailed information about COVID at work, you may want to listen to our recorded webinar, Putting Together a COVID Prevention Plan at Work.