COVID-19 is a qualified illness under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) regulations. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, which is covered under OSHA’s recording and reporting requirements. Employers must record or report occupational exposure to COVID-19 in certain cases.
Here’s what you’ll learn by reading this article:
- The difference between OSHA recording and reporting
- When you should record COVID-19 illnesses to OSHA
- If you should include the employee’s name when recording
- When you should report COVID-19 illnesses to OSHA
- How to report COVID-19 illnesses to OSHA
- What information you will need to know to report COVID-19 illnesses to OSHA
- Advice in situations where it’s hard to know if COVID-19 was contracted at work
- Extra tips for employers to stay prepared
- Other OSHA standards to prevent COVID-19
What is the difference between recording and reporting?
Recording occupational exposures to COVID-19 means entering the incident on your workplace’s OSHA 300 log. This log is kept internally, and not always reported to OSHA.
Reporting occupational exposures to the virus means contacting the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Reporting to OSHA could launch a full OSHA inspection.
When should I record COVID-19 illnesses on the OSHA 300 log?
Record occupational exposures to COVID-19 when any of the following happens:
- This is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): at least one respiratory specimen from an individual tested positive for SARS-CoV-2
- The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5: consider an injury or illness to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition, or aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness
- The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7
What is the recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7?
An employer must record an injury or illness if it results in any of the following:
- Days away from work
- Restricted work or transfer to another job
- Medical treatment beyond first aid
- Loss of consciousness
- Significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional
Do I record the employee’s name?
When recording work-related COVID-19 illnesses in the OSHA 300 log, you will usually include their name. Here are the only cases where you wouldn’t include an employee’s name on the log:
- Injury or illness to an intimate body part or to the reproductive system
- Injury or illness resulting from a sexual assault
- Mental illness
- Case of HIV infection, hepatitis, or tuberculosis
- Needlestick injury or cut from a sharp object that is contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious material
- Other illnesses, if the employee independently and voluntarily requests that his or her name not be entered on the log
When recording COVID-19, an employee might ask you to not to include their name. In this case, you would not enter their name.
When should I report COVID-19 occupational exposures to OSHA?
Report COVID-19 occupational exposures to OSHA when it results in the following:
- In-patient hospitalizations that occur within 24 hours of the work-related incident
- A fatality occurs within 30 days of the work-related incident. Report within 8 hours of knowing both: that the employee died and that it was due to a work-related case of COVID-19
What if you know an employee died, then at a later date learn that the death was due to a work-related exposure to COVID-19? You would have 8 hours to call after finding out the death was due to a work-related exposure.
How do I report occupational exposures to COVID-19 to OSHA?
You can report an in-patient hospitalization or fatality by:
- Calling the nearest OSHA office
- Calling the OSHA 24-hour phone service at 1-800-321-6742
- Reporting online via electronic submission
What information do I report to OSHA?
Before calling OSHA, be sure you know:
- Business name
- Name(s) of employee(s) affected
- Location and time of the incident
- Description of the incident
- Contact person and phone number for OSHA to follow up with, unless you are reporting anonymously
What if it’s hard to know if COVID-19 was contracted at work?
It’s hard to determine is a COVID-19 infection is “work-related” because:
- It has a long incubation period
- It is so easily transmissible in the community between asymptomatic people
Employers need to do their best in determining work-related cases. But it may be the smartest move for employers to over-report, rather than under-report, even though the cases may not be work-related.
As for recording, employers need to be diligent in managing and maintaining effective records, even if they are likely from community exposures. This is because it will help employers avoid regulatory liability and minimize the risks of OSHA enforcement.
How can I stay prepared?
Employers can stay prepared and avoid liability by having a written plan for management of COVID-19 cases. Regularly update this plan to account for changes in reporting and notification requirements.
What OSHA standards apply to preventing COVID-19 in the workplace?
Here are some other OSHA standards that can help you keep your workplace COVID-19 free:
Do you have more OSHA questions?
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