On April 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum providing time-limited interim guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) that changes OSHA’s enforcement policy on recordkeeping requirements (29 CFR Part 1904) with respect to cases of COVID-19. The guidance is effective immediately.
Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness. Employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if the case: (1) Is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); (2) Is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5; and (3) Involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.
In issuing the new guidance, OSHA acknowledged that in areas where there is ongoing community transmission, employers may have difficulty determining whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposure at work. Accordingly, under the new guidance and until further notice, OSHA will not enforce the recordkeeping requirements regarding COVID-19 for most employers except where: (1) There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related; and (2) The evidence was reasonably available to the employer. The new guidance does not apply to the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations and correctional institutions, all of which must continue to make work-relatedness determinations and perform recordkeeping regarding COVID-19 cases pursuant to 29 CFR Part 1904.
OSHA’s interim guidance is aimed at helping employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in the workplace and otherwise mitigating COVID-19’s effects, rather than on making difficult work-relatedness decisions in circumstances where there is community transmission.
The standard Guidance for Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) can be found at CPL 02-00-135, Recordkeeping Policies and Procedures Manual (Dec. 30, 2004) and CPL 02-00-163, Field Operations Manual (FOM) (Sept. 13, 2019), Chapters 3 and 6.