COVID-19 – Recordable or Reportable
Workplaces operating during the COVID19 pandemic have a collective responsibility of putting in best practices for their workers' safety. However, with confirmed cases increasing rapidly, employers are uncertain whether they are under obligation to record or report an employee's COVID-19 illness to OSHA.
OSHA’s Recordable Guidelines
As per OSHA's general guidelines, workplaces having 10 or more employees are required to maintain a record of work-related injuries and illnesses for at least five years. Every employer is obligated to enter a recordable illness or an injury on OSHA 300 Log and fill an OSHA 301 Incident form within seven days of an illness or injury to an employee.
Some businesses based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and those that deal with energy and infrastructure where injury and illness rates are relatively low are exempted from OSHA recording.
However, some of these businesses may still have to report if asked to do so by OSHA, a state authority, or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employers can find more about these guidelines by taking a HAZWOPER certification online intended to increase hazard awareness and implement measures to improve worker health and safety.
COVID-19 – Recordable on the OSHA 300 Log?
As per OSHA, the COVID-19 case needs to be recorded by the employer if certain requirements are met as below:
- It's a confirmed case of COVID-19
- If an employee is infected while performing work-related duties
- If an injury or illness results in death, restricted work, days away from work, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness (OSHA guidelines)
OSHA’s Reporting Guidelines
All workplaces (including those with 10 or fewer employees or NAICS exempt) are required to report to OSHA regarding any work-related incident that results in:
- Hospitalization of the patient – within 24 hours of the incident
- Death of the employee – within 8 hours of the incident
Reporting requirements depend on the state where an organization is based and whether the state has an OSHA-approved state plan.
Workplaces in states without OSHA-approved state plans can report the incident to OSHA by submitting an online form, calling OSHA's hotline number, or calling the nearest OSHA office. OSHA's specific guidelines have been covered in our OSHA HAZWOPER refresher course created with the aim to allow businesses to run with higher safety and health standards and become successful and sustainable.
COVID-19 – Reportable to OSHA?
Under OSHA's recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); (2) the case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5; and (3) the case involves one or more of the general recording criteria as cited in 29 CFR § 1904.7. On March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and the extent of transmission is a rapidly evolving issue. (OSHA recordkeeping requirements for COVID-19)
Workplaces in Areas With High Covid-19 Cases
For workplaces (other than hospitals, law enforcement services) areas where COVID cases are significantly high, it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to ascertain whether their employees have contracted COVID-19 due to workplace exposure. To address this issue, OSHA's Deputy Assistant Secretary, Amanda Edens has issued a directive stating that OSHA will not enforce the record-keeping requirements to these employers, with exception to the following:
- When a COVID-19 case may be work-related and there is suitable evidence to substantiate;
- Employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions must continue to make work-relatedness determinations according to 29 CFR Part 1904 (OSHA National News Release, April'20).
To sum up, unlike common cold and seasonal flu cases, which are not required to be recorded in the log, given the implication COVID-19 has had on human lives in the nation and the world, it needs to be recorded or reported.
Also, it is very evident that whether COVID-19 is recordable or reportable would depend on whether the specific case is the result of the work-related exposure or occurred away from work. By evaluating the employee's duties and working conditions, employers can determine if the worker contracted COVID-19 due to exposure in the work environment and then maintain the record.
While restrictions and shutdowns of businesses are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, certain essential businesses need to remain operational through adherence. This means employers have to take utmost care of their work environment and workers' safety. Sick workers or those suspected of exposure to COVID-19 should be directed to stay at home and follow the guidance of health officials.