OSHA Clarifies COVID-19 Recordkeeping Requirements
April 17, 2020
By: Thomas M. Cunningham
On Friday, April 10, 2020, the Department of Labor’s Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance clarifying employers’ record-keeping requirements for COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
Before issuance of the guidance, OSHA had made clear that it considered COVID-19 to be a workplace illness that employers must record on their OSHA 300 logs if all other recording criteria were met, which included a determination by the employer that the case was “work-related.” OSHA regulations generally defined work-relatedness to mean an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness (29 C.F.R. §1904.5). Iowa OSHA, which operates a federally-approved state OSHA plan, has adopted all applicable Federal OSHA regulations and standards, including the record-keeping requirements.
As a result of the exponential increase in community spread of COVID-19, OSHA now has announced that until it notifies employers otherwise, it will not enforce its recording requirements to require employers (except those in the health care industry, emergency response organizations, or correctional institutions) to make work-relatedness determinations of COVID-19 cases. Two exceptions exist: (1) where objective evidence of work-relatedness exists, and (2) that evidence is “reasonably available” to the employer. The purpose of this ease on record keeping for most employers is clear: OSHA wants employers to spend their time and resources on taking steps to provide a safe workplace, and not in investigating whether a particular COVID-19 case is work-related for recording purposes.
The guidance suggests an example of “objective evidence” may be a number of COVID-19 cases developing among employees who work closely together with no alternative explanation. The guidance also provides an example of evidence of workplace transmission that is “reasonably available” -- the employees themselves may provide information to the employer or the employer may learn of it during the ordinary course of managing its business.
On the other hand, OSHA has made clear that health care, emergency responder (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement), and correctional institution employers must continue to record all COVID-19 cases if they meet OSHA’s standard recording criteria:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC;
- The case meets one or more of the general reporting criteria under 29 C.F.R. § 1904.7 (e.g., it results in death, days away from work, restricted work, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness); and
- The case is work-related under 29 C.F.R. §1904.5; thus, these employers must continue to make work-relatedness determinations.
Federal OSHA issued its guidance and clarification of COVID-19 record-keeping requirements three days before it published its Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Enforcement Response Plan outlines the primary areas on which OSHA inspectors should focus during any COVID-19 related inspection, and one of those is employers’ record-keeping compliance. For a full discussion of OSHA’s Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19, see the companion article here.
Please contact your Nyemaster Goode attorney for any questions regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 record-keeping requirements, workplace safety enforcement guidance, or for assistance with labor and employment issues in general.