On April 10, 2020, OSHA issued a memorandum which relaxed the rules for recording cases of COVID-19 on the OSHA 300. EI first reported on this topic back on April 15, 2020. More recently, OSHA issued another memorandum intended to provide guidance for compliance officers, rescinding those earlier restrictions and returning to standard recordkeeping practices for all employers as of May 26, 2020. In other words, if an employee contracts the virus, the employer is obligated to conduct an assessment just as they would any other injury or illness, to determine if the case is recordable.

The expectation is that employers will make a “reasonable” effort to identify the source and determine if the ill employee’s condition is work-related. So, what is “reasonable”? OSHA expects employers to respect the privacy of workers; therefore, it is not necessary to delve into an employee’s medical history or conduct extensive medical inquiries.

According to OSHA, it is reasonable to:

  1. Ask the affected employee how he/she believes they may have contracted the illness.
  2. Discuss with the employee, his/her activities either at or away from work, that may have provided a link to exposure.
  3. Determine if there have been other employees in the same work environment who have gotten sick.

Employers should examine readily available evidence that might help in making the work-relatedness determination.

For example, a case is likely work-related if:

  1. The worker has recently had a close and extended contact with a customer or co-worker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and there is no alternative explanation; or
  2. The worker’s duties put him/her in an environment with the general public in which there is ongoing community transmission and there is no alternative explanation; or
  3. The worker works closely with a group, among which, several cases of COVID-19 have developed and there is no alternative explanation.

It is sometimes difficult, particularly with COVID-19 cases, to determine the source of an illness, and thus work-relatedness. But, as in the past, definitive proof is not required for a case to be deemed work-related.  If, following completion of a reasonable and good faith assessment, it cannot be determined whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role with respect to a particular case of COVID-19, the case need not be recorded.

If you need assistance or have questions regarding OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping, please contact Bill Taylor, CSP at (919) 459-5249 or [email protected].