Since the coronavirus pandemic exploded onto the public consciousness a few months ago, it’s become the foremost issue in occupational health and safety. It has fundamentally altered the way we relate to each other and the nature of safe interaction in the workplace.
This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) turned its attention to COVID-19 reporting.
Initially, OSHA’s guidance on COVID-19 reporting was slapdash. It announced that it would reduce inspections and focused on high-risk worker exposures.
Now, though, as the pandemic has evolved and more non-essential businesses are opening their doors, OSHA’s focus on the pandemic has shifted, and so has its reporting requirements. Here’s what your team needs to know about the revised reporting criteria.
Revised Reporting Criteria
Under new OSHA guidance, COVID-19 is viewed as a recordable illness – or rather, it can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected while performing their duties. That said, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are true:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19
- The case is work-related, under the definitions provided by 29 CFR 1904.5
- The case involves one or more of the recording criteria outlined in 29 CFR 1905.7
Under 29 CFR 1904.5, an injury or illness must be considered work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. This can include employees who become ill when traveling for work and employees who work from home (under certain conditions).
Under 29 CFR 1905.7, you must consider an injury or illness to meet the recording criteria if it results in one of the following:
- Days away from work
- Restricted work
- Transfer to another job
- Medical treatment beyond first aid
- Loss of consciousness
That said, a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a licensed healthcare professional can also meet the criteria of recordable conditions even if it does not result in one of the above consequences.
What Else You Need to Know About Revised Guidelines
Under the new policy, OSHA has tightened its enforcement and will now enforce the recordkeeping requirements found in 29 CFR 1904 for all employees and employers, regardless of whether or not they’re considered essential.
This means that all employers must make a reasonable effort to determine if a case is work-related, based on the criteria for work-related illnesses. If it is work-related, the employer is obligated to report it.
Keep in mind, however, that reporting a case of COVID-19 does not mean you have violated an OSHA standard. So long as you follow the correct reporting and recordkeeping procedures, you are compliant.
OSHA’s standard states, “Employers must report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. Employers must report fatalities that occur within 30 days of a work-related incident, and must report in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye that occur within 24 hours of a work-related incident.”
Protecting Your Workers During the Pandemic
We know that these are incredibly difficult times for employers and employees alike. With guidance evolving at a rapid pace and everyone showing up to work afraid for their own safety, it can be hard to know what to do.
We’re here to help you make sense of workplace safety during these difficult times. Check out our blog for more useful posts on the evolving coronavirus pandemic. And remember that the best thing you can do for your workers is be prepared.