OSHA has answered the latest questions regarding proper recordkeeping procedures for work-related COVID-19 cases in its latest memorandum.
Regulations regarding occupational illnesses currently are detailed in 29 CFR Part 1904. The interim guidance clarifies when employers are responsible to report cases of novel coronavirus.
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 the integrity of the healthcare system.
PRIORITY 2 : Ensure that those who are at highest risk of complication of infection 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 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.
The memo further states, “In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, employers other than those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work.”
Until further notice, the agency has suspended recordkeeping requirements to those employers with the exceptions that there is “objective evidence” that a COVID-19 case is work-related and the evidence was “reasonably available” to the employer.
However, healthcare industry employers, emergency response organizations and correctional institutions should continue to make judgments bases on 29 CFR Part 1904.
“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,” OSHA concludes.