OSHA Reverses Course, Will Require Employers to Record COVID-19 Cases


The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recently changed their guidance with respect to the recording of COVID-19 cases.  Employers must now determine whether a case of COVID-19 is work-related in all situations.  OSHA regulations require that employers must consider an injury or illness to be work-related if 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.

For context, previously OSHA had indicated that work-relatedness determinations need only be made in certain industries.  Now, employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if:

  • The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19;
  • The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5; and
  • The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7.

In determining whether an employer has complied with this obligation and made a reasonable determination of work-relatedness, OSHA will consider the following:

  • The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness;
  • The evidence available to the employer; and
  • The evidence that a COVID-19 illness was contracted at work.

If those factors indicate that a case is work-related, an employer should record the case on the company’s OSHA log as a respiratory illness.  Because COVID-19 is coded as an illness, if an employee voluntarily requests that his or her name not be entered on the log, the employer must comply.

OSHA’s guidance is complex and changing rapidly.  If you have questions regarding this or any other workforce issue, contact your relationship attorney or one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys.

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