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OSHA Publishes COVID-19 Recordkeeping Guidance

April 11, 2020
Agency suspends enforcement of 29 CFR Part 1904 for COVID-19 cases outside of healthcare.

OSHA has answered the latest questions regarding proper recordkeeping procedures for work-related COVID-19 cases in its latest memorandum.

The agency has suspended requirements related to COVID-19 for employers outside of the healthcare industry unless there is "objective evidence" that the case is work-related and the evidence was "reasonably available" to the employer. 

"This enforcement policy will help employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces, and otherwise mitigating COVID-19’s effects, rather than on making difficult work-relatedness decisions in circumstances where there is community transmission," the memo states.

OSHA cites the issue of ongoing community transmission as a reason why it would be challenging for employers outside of the healthcare industry to definitively determine whether a worker contracted COVID-19 on the job.

Objective evidence is defined as a number of cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation. "Reasonably available evidence" comprises any information workers give to the employer regarding the case as well as anything the employer discovers about their workers' health and safety while maintaining business continuity.

Healthcare industry employers; emergency response organizations such as medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services; and correctional institutions should continue to make judgments based on 29 CFR Part 1904, the agency states.

Under the requirements, a case is recordable if the worker tests positive for the illness specific to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC states testing for COVID-19 is at the "discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians." However, the organization has issued guidance to officials and clinicians on the prioritization of laboratory testing based on the following three criteria:

PRIORITY 1 : Ensure optimal care options for all hospitalized patients, lessen the risk of nosocomial infections and maintain healthcare system integrity.

PRIORITY 2 : Ensure that those who are at the highest risk of complications are rapidly identified and appropriately triaged.

PRIORITY 3 : As resources allow, test individuals in the surrounding community of rapidly increasing hospital cases to decrease community spread and ensure the health of essential workers.

Individuals who have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion and bluish lips or face should seek immediate medical attention, the CDC says.

Once a case is confirmed, the employer must determine if it is a recordable illness as defined in 29 CFR 1904.5. One or more of the following general recording criteria outlined in 29 CFR 1904.7 must be met: death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness or a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.

COVID-19 should be coded as a respiratory illness on the employer's OSHA Form 300. If the worker requests for his or her name to not be entered in the log, OSHA points to the employer's duty to comply with the request under 29 CFR Part 1904.29(b)(7)(vi).

About the Author

Stefanie Valentic

Stefanie Valentic was formerly managing editor of EHS Today, and is currently editorial director of Waste360.

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