OSHA recently announced that its officers will investigate your non-work-related records of employees that have COVID-19. But determining the cause of the illness is really tricky, and there’s a lot at stake. Do it wrong, and you could get hit with a costly employee safety penalty.
It’s up to you to steer clear of OSHA investigating your practice for breaking a new pandemic-related rule. Protect your practice by implementing the following recording requirements right away.
Record Coronavirus Staff Incident for 3 Circumstances
Certain staff COVID-19 illnesses require you to file an incident, according to OSHA rules. You must record a coronavirus case using OSHA’s Form 300, when your employee:
- tests positive for SARS-CoV-2
- has work-related COVID-19, meaning an event or exposure at work caused or contributed to the illness.
- has COVID-19 that is not work related, but results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness. The illness also qualifies when it involves a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.
Reasonably Check That the Illness Is Work Related
OSHA doesn’t expect you to drill your employees on their medical history, but Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) will investigate whether you made a reasonable attempt to determine if this illness is work related. To demonstrate your compliance, perform the following steps when reviewing a COVID-19 employee’s exposure source:
- Ask your employee, “How do you think you contracted COVID-19?”
- Ask your employee, “Were you involved in any work or non-work activities that could have led to the illness?” Be careful not to violate the staff member’s privacy.
- Check your employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure and note if any other workers in that environment also contracted COVID-19.
Document Evidence Showing COVID-19 Related Activity
There are pieces of information that you consider at the time an employee contracts the coronavirus and after that you must carefully record in your case incident report. OSHA officers will look for what items you used in making your determination, as well as any additional data that you later discovered.
These factors indicate a COVID-19 illness IS work related:
- Numerous Staff Cases: Several of your employees who work closely together come down with the illness, and there is no alternative explanation.
- Practice Close COVID-19 Exposure: Your employee contracts the illness shortly after spending lengthy, close exposure to a patient or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, and there is no alternative explanation.
- Increased Local Rate: Your employee’s job brings them in frequent, close exposure to the general public where COVID-19 is spreading, and there is no alternative explanation.
The following findings support that the coronavirus case IS NOT work related:
- Sole Case and No Community Exposure: Your employee is the only one in that general work vicinity to get sick, and he/she doesn’t have frequent contact with the general public.
- Family Illness: Your employee associates with (and was exposed to prior to their illness) any non-coworker outside of work who has COVID-19.
Confirm Your Inquiry, Size
Just because an employee gets sick with COVID-19 doesn’t mean you have to record the illness. Here are a couple of situations where you might not need to record:
- Supported Negative Investigation: If you go through a reasonable and good faith inquiry and review all the information you have but still can’t determine that your employee contracted COVID-19 at work.
- Small Practice: If you have 10 or fewer employees you only have to report work-related COVID-19 illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.
Additional compliance tactics: For more guidance on how to mitigate your risk of COVID-19 OSHA investigation penalties from potential employee and patient complaints, healthcare law attorney, Bryan Meek, Esq., can help. During his Head Off OSHA Violation Penalties Driven by COVID-19 Complaints, he will provide you with a nuts and bolts understanding of how to adhere with OSHA workplace requirements, as well as how to avoid negative consequences of noncompliance.
Source: OSHA issued temporary pandemic reporting guidance in May 2020 that is effect until further notice. For updated guidance, see COVID-19 and Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements
COVID-19 Online Training Resources
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