Because of COVID-19 outbreaks among workers in industries other than healthcare, emergency response, etc. have been identified and because of the difficulty in determining work-relatedness, OSHA has revised its guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for enforcing its recordkeeping rule (29 CFR Part 1904) with respect to COVID-19 cases.
In its previous guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs), OSHA stated that most employers only had to record or report confirmed COVID-19 cases when provided with objective evidence that an employee contracted COVID-19 at work and the evidence was reasonably available to the employer. This p
revious guidance has been rescinded.
“It is sufficient in most circumstances for the employer, when it learns of an employee's COVID-19 illness,
- to ask the employee how he believes he contracted the COVID-19 illness;
- 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
- review the employee's work environment for potential COVID-19 exposure.” Are there any other instances of workers in that environment contracting COVID-19 illness?
Per OSHA, “it is important as a matter of worker health and safety, as well as public health, for an employer to examine COVID-19 cases among workers and respond appropriately to protect workers, regardless of whether a case is ultimately determined to be work-related.”
Employers should have a reason for doing what they do and should document, document, document. Consider having a COVID log separate from your OSHA 300 Log where you can keep track of information to support your decision on recordability. Even if they were to have an OSHA inspection in the future, OSHA considers an employer’s good faith effort to do what is right. That will not necessarily get an employer out of a citation if there is a violation. However, OSHA compliance officers do take into consideration an employer’s efforts in this regard.
In determining whether an employer has made a reasonable determination of work-relatedness, OSHA will consider:
- 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.
Likely work related:
- several cases develop among workers who work closely together;
- COVID -19 contracted shortly after close contact with a customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 (The CDC defines close contact as within 6 feet for 15 minutes in the last 48 hours.);
- job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission.
Likely not work related:
- only one worker contracts COVID-19 in his/her vicinity and job duties do not include having frequent contact with the general public;
- outside work, employee is in close contact with someone (not a coworker) who has COVID-19 and during the time when the individual was likely infectious.
Per OSHA, “If, after the reasonable and good faith inquiry described above, the employer cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role with respect to a particular case of COVID-19, the employer does not need to record that COVID-19 illness.”
The new guidance goes into effect
May 4th --Reporting to Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)