COVID-19 Reporting: What Should You Include on Your OSHA 300 Logs?

E-mployment Alert

Ohio has been trying to get back to normal after COVID-19 closures. For many, that has included some form of going back to work. At the same time, Ohio has also seen an uptick in daily cases. If you find yourself in a situation where these circumstances collide and you end up with one or more sick employees on your hands, you’re rightfully thinking about contact tracing and Emergency Paid Sick Leave, but you should also be thinking about OSHA.

Employers in non-exempt sectors with more than 10 employees are typically required to track serious work-related injuries and illnesses. When it comes to COVID-19, however, it can be difficult to discern whether the illness was picked up at work, a bar after work, the grocery, gas station, or at home from a family member. Therefore, in April, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lifted COVID reporting requirements for certain employers absent objective evidence that it was contracted at work. But at the end of May, that grace period expired. In its place, OSHA has drafted a set of guidelines for recording cases of COVID-19 in 300 logs.

An employee illness should be included if: (1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19; (2) the case is work-related; and (3) the infection resulted in lost work days, restricted duty, death, or medical care beyond first aid. At this point, almost all confirmed COVID-19 cases will result in lost work days due to quarantine orders associated with positive tests. So the only question is whether the case is “work related.”

In investigating and determining whether a case occurred at work, OSHA clarified that employers “should not be expected to undertake extensive medical inquiries, given employee privacy concerns and most employers' lack of expertise in this area.” Instead, it’s sufficient to (1) to ask the employee how he/she believes COVID-19 was contracted; (2) while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee his/her work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness; and (3) review the employee’s work environment for potential COVID-19 exposure (e.g. other employees who have also contracted the virus).

The guidelines go on to set out several presumptions for when a COVID-19 is or is not presumed to be work-related:

  • COVID-19 illnesses are likely work-related when several cases develop among workers who work closely together and there is no alternative explanation.
  • An employee's COVID-19 illness is likely work-related if it is contracted shortly after lengthy, close exposure to a particular customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and there is no alternative explanation.
  • An employee's COVID-19 illness is likely work-related if his job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission and there is no alternative explanation.
  • An employee's COVID-19 illness is likely not work-related if she is the only worker to contract COVID-19 in her vicinity and her job duties do not include having frequent contact with the general public, regardless of the rate of community spread.
  • An employee's COVID-19 illness is likely not work-related if he, outside the workplace, closely and frequently associates with someone (e.g., a family member, significant other, or close friend) who (1) has COVID-19; (2) is not a coworker, and (3) exposes the employee during the period in which the individual is likely infectious.

In May, the Administration faced backlash for not being tough enough on COVID-19 violations, having issued only one citation. That all changed on Tuesday when it levied multiple serious citations against three Ohio nursing homes for violations of respiratory protection standards. In total, the penalties amounted to over $40,000.

If you have questions about a COVID-19 case in the work place or your reporting requirements, contact us.