There are myriad workplace safety and health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one OSHA regulatory obligation about which we have received countless questions in recent days is the requirement to record and/or report work-related cases COVID-19. Below are two FAQs that describe the relevant analysis in more detail.
- Do I have to record a case of COVID-19 of an employee on my OSHA 300 Log?
By regulation, the common cold and flu are exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping and reporting requirements (29 CFR Part 1904.5(b)(2)(viii)):
“The illness is the common cold or flu (Note: contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, hepatitis A, or plague are considered work-related if the employee is infected at work).”
The rationale for the exemption is that the spread of the cold and flu are so pervasive that it is typically near impossible to identify the source of infection; i.e., there would be no reasonable way to determine whether it was more likely than not that the illness was caused by an exposure in the workplace.
Despite great sacrifice around the country, the scale of infection of COVID-19 is expected to soon spread like the flu and common cold, but OSHA has already expressed in guidance that COVID-19 is not subject to the cold/flu recordkeeping exemption:
“While 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2)(viii) exempts recording of the common cold and flu, COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job.”
Industry has been advocating to OSHA to have the agency reconsider that initial declaration, but it does not appear OSHA will be exempting this novel strain of Coronavirus from the recordkeeping and reporting requirements any time soon. OSHA has been maintaining a Safety and Health Topics page for COVID-19 and separate Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 that it updates periodically as more information becomes available. In its most recent update to that page, OSHA appeared to double down on its decision that employers must spend time determining whether cases of COVID-19 are work-related. The guidance has been updated to be more explicit, with OSHA explaining that COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if the worker becomes infected while performing his or her work-related duties. Continue reading