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In OSHA’s original guidance from April 2020, the agency acknowledged the difficulty in determining whether a COVID-19 case was “work-related” due to possible employee infections from outside the workplace. Most employers did not have a reporting obligation unless the employer had “objective evidence” that the COVID-19 case was work-related. Under the new guidance set forth below, OSHA confirms COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and all employers – including non-health care employers – are expected to investigate COVID-19 cases and make a determination of work-relatedness.
OSHA’s COVID Recordability Test
A COVID-19 case must be recorded if:
If the employee meets these three requirements, the COVID-19 case should be recorded on the employer’s OSHA 300 log. A COVID-19 case should also be coded as a respiratory illness. In accordance with existing regulations, the only employers that are exempt from maintaining such records are those with 10 or fewer employees or certain low-risk industries.
The key issue for an employer in assessing a COVID-19 case is determining whether it is “work-related.” OSHA’s new guidance indicates it will consider the following factors in determining whether an employer has made a reasonable determination on this issue:
Under this new standard, it would be reasonable for an employer to engage in the following steps upon learning of the employee’s COVID-19 illness:
OSHA also notes that “due weight” should be given to the opinion of a medical provider or a public health authority in making a determination. With that said, the employer is not expected to undertake extensive medical inquires.
This will include the information reasonably available to the employer at the time it made the decision about work-relatedness. However, it can be changed later when the employer learns additional information that may impact the determination.
The new guidance outlines some evidence that weigh in favor or against work-relatedness:
In summary, it is imperative that employers conduct a reasonable and objective evaluation for work-relatedness when assessing COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
 The CDC defines a confirmed case as an individual who tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.