OSHA revises enforcement policies for coronavirus infection cases

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration 

As states reopen after more than two months of shelter orders, OSHA has adopted two revised enforcement policies with respect to coronavirus exposure in workplaces, spurred by improved understanding about infection transmission and prevention throughout the course of the pandemic. 

First, the agency is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. New enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize Covid-19 inspections and utilize all customary enforcement tools.

Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under agency recordkeeping requirements, infection is a recordable illness and employers are responsible for recording if cases are confirmed as such; work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and, involve one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existing regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.