OSHA has revised its enforcement policy for recordable cases of COVID-19 , adding that it will increase workplace inspections. Previously OSHA was not requiring most employers outside of the health care industry to record cases of COVID-19 among their employees, under interim guidance issued April 10.
Now, OSHA states that COVID-19 cases are recordable if the illness is confirmed as COVID-19, the illness is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5 and the case involves at least one of the general recording criteria listed in 29 CFR 1904.7. The criteria include days away from work, medical treatment “beyond first aid,” loss of consciousness, and restricted work or transfer to another job.
Many times it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace,” the agency states in the release. “OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.”
OSHA states that “If, after the reasonable and good-faith inquiry described above, the employer cannot determine 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 employer does not need to record that COVID-19 illness,” .
Employers with no more than 10 employees and certain employers in “low-hazard industries” do not have an obligation to report COVID-19 cases unless a work-related illness results in death, in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.
According to OSHA, its decision to increase the number of inspections is a result of “changing circumstances in which many noncritical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread.” The agency notes in the release that “the risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.”