A recently released OSHA enforcement memo provides some new clarity about your obligations for recording COVID-19 illnesses on your injury log.
According to the memo, which was sent to OSHA’s regional offices, inspectors should cite only certain types of employers for not recording COVID-19 illnesses. The kinds of operations that must investigate coronavirus illnesses and determine whether they should be recorded are healthcare facilities, emergency response organizations and correctional institutions.
All other types of businesses shouldn’t be cited for record-keeping violations, unless:
• there’s objective evidence that a COVID-19 case is job-related, i.e., a high number of illnesses among people who labor together closely.
• there’s reasonably available proof that the coronavirus was the source of the illness, i.e., victims have provided specific information linking their condition to their job.
OSHA said the change in its enforcement policy will help employers focus their response efforts on implementing measures to stop the spread of the virus.
Note: While the memo doesn’t address the issue of whether COVID-19 illnesses that require hospitalization should be reported to OSHA within 24 hours, it’s generally accepted that if an illness doesn’t have to be recorded, it also doesn’t have to be reported.
What it means to you: Unless your company is in one of the industries specifically identified in OSHA’s memo, you should neither record nor report worker COVID-19 illnesses, absent ironclad evidence that the condition was caused by the coronavirus.
(From the April 20, 2020, issue of OSHA Compliance News)