If one of my employees gets COVID, do I have to tell OSHA? Should I report COVID exposure to OSHA if it happens at my company?

Back in May, OSHA issued some new guidance regarding the recording and reporting of workplace-related COVID-19. This addresses whether COVID is a recordable employee illness that must be noted on OSHA 300/301 documentation. That has caused some consternation among my some of my small business clients, who may not normally be used to OSHA recording, and they are curious whether this imposes a new set of obligations on them. I thought I’d provide a brief overview to place this in context.

First, in most instances, small businesses with fewer than 10 employees are usually not subject to OSHA’s requirement to keep a log and summary of minor workplace injuries. However, this does not mean that these businesses are exempt the obligation to promptly report any fatalities or serious injuries, which must not only be logged, they must promptly be reported within hours of the event. Nor does it exempt small employers from the general obligations to provide safe workplace, nor from other specific safety requirements such as PPE obligations that pertain to their industry.

The details of your industry and your business matter, so be sure to do your homework or give us a call if you need understand your specific obligations, but here’s the gist:
if one of your workers develops Covid, you must assess whether that illness is a recordable workplace illness under OSHA. To do that, follow the following steps:

1. Determine whether the case is in fact a confirmed COVID-19 case. If not, stop here. No need to record.

2. Determine whether the case is work related. Ask yourself whether there are multiple cases among your employees.

Was the employee’s case diagnosed shortly after being in close contact with one of your customers or coworkers who has a confirmed COVID-19 case? Does the employee have job duties that require him or her to be in frequent close contact in a place where there has been or is likely to be widespread transmission of COVID-19. These are non-exclusive factors. You are expected to make a good-faith inquiry on whether or not there is a basis to believe the illness was work related. If you do not believe that it is work related after considering these factors and conducting this analysis, you do not need to record the illness for OSHA purposes and can stop here. If it does appear to be work related, proceed to step three.

3. To be recordable, the Covid illness of your worker must meet the general recording requirements. That means it must result in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness or a significant injury or illness even if it does not result in death or serious injury. Presumably given the high death toll of Covid, the standard would easily be met and anyone reaching step three would need to be recorded on an OSHA form 301.

Hope this helps