The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of life and work. One of the many new directives that apply to COVID-19 in the workplace involves reporting cases where employees contract the coronavirus at work or through work-related interactions.
Accordingly, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration of the US Department of Labor (OSHA) has issued guidelines for employers to follow when reporting these cases.
SafetyPro Resources, LLC provides safety guidance, consulting, training, and resources for any business in construction-related industries throughout the Gulf Coast region. We can also help you with OSHA reporting for COVID-19 or other illnesses. Visit our Coronavirus Resources Page for more information.
Recording and Reporting Workplace Exposures to COVID-19
The current OSHA recordkeeping requirements stipulate that all covered employers maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA provides a standard log form for this purpose to help employers.
According to the most recent guidance from OSHA regarding COVID-19 reporting, COVID-19 is considered to 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 are true:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19
- The case is work-related according to OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1904.5
- The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1904.7
There were different criteria for reporting earlier in the pandemic, so employers that may just now be compiling these records should refer to OSHA's enforcement memos for recording cases of COVID-19 effective through May 25, 2020 and beginning on May 26, 2020.
The current OSHA reporting guidelines also point out that recording and reporting that one or more of your employees has contracted COVID-19 through the workplace does not mean automatic violation of any existing regulations or safety standards.
Employers may report a COVID-19 fatality or in-patient hospitalization by:
- Calling your local OSHA office
- Calling the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742)
- Submitting an electronic report online at the OSHA website
The Importance of Employee Illness Investigation
It is critical for employers to properly investigate, record, and report any work-related cases of COVID-19 to OSHA. However, employers must take care in how they investigate an employee’s possible exposure. OSHA guidance allows for employees to be asked their opinion of how they contracted the coronavirus. But particular caution should be exercised when inquiring about or discussing at-work and away-from-work activities that may have led to contracting the virus. Employee privacy rights are an important consideration here, as well as protecting the employer from legal actions arising from violating these rights.
An integral part of investigating all employee exposures to COVID-19 is a thorough review of the employee’s work environment. This can provide key information in determining whether or not an employee contracted the virus through work-related interactions or exposure.
If the employer determines that an employee has contracted COVID-19 outside of work-related interactions or exposures, the illness need not be recorded or reported. However, it is always wise to make a record of an employee absence for such reasons in case of a later investigation over such matters.
Employers should also remember that OSHA requires all employers to keep OSHA 300 illness or incident reporting logs for at least five years.
In order to comply with OSHA reporting requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, and these guidelines remain in force until further notice, all employers must:
- Evaluate any COVID-19 employee illness to determine if it is work-related and keep these reporting records for any later audits.
- Record confirmed work-related COVID-19 cases on an OSHA 300 Log.
- Report any work-related COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA within the time frames specified in the published guidelines.
SafetyPro Resources, LLC also wants employers to be aware that some states have their own OSHA requirements for COVID-19 reporting. Our safety professionals can help you ensure compliance with both federal and state requirements. Call or message us online for more assistance with COVID-19 and related safety issues.