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On Safety: COVID-19 and OSHA recordkeeping

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Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Some questions to consider

Question: If someone tests positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic, is fully able to work and is quarantined (not because they can’t do their job, but to protect others), would this be a recordable lost workday case? The reason I’m asking is, in the past, the focus in determining recordability and days away was on the impact of the injury/illness on the employee’s ability to do their job.
Answer: In this situation, the employee can do the work, but isn’t at work to protect others. OSHA considers the case as a recordable lost-workday case.

Question: What if an employee tests positive, is asymptomatic, is fully able to do all aspects of their job and continues to work from home as scheduled? In short, they experience virtually no impact from their illness. Would this be a recordable case?
Answer: This case isn’t recordable, according to OSHA. Both this case and the one in the previous question do need to be recorded as days-away cases. Although the isolation is precautionary, precautionary doesn’t enter the decision-making process.

From OSHA, some answers to some related question that are frequently asked and may help in determining recordability:

How do I record a work-related injury or illness that results in days away from work?
OSHA: When an injury or illness involves one or more days away from work, you must record the injury or illness on the OSHA 300 log with a check mark in the space for “cases involving days away” and an entry of the number of calendar days away from work in the “number of days” column. If the employee is out for an extended period of time, you must enter an estimate of the days that the employee will be away, and update the day count when the actual number of days is known.

Once an employer has recorded a case involving days away from work, restricted work or medical treatment and the employee has returned to their regular work or has received the course of recommended medical treatment, is it permissible for the employer to delete the log entry based on a physician’s recommendation, made during a year-end review of the log, that the days away from work, work restriction or medical treatment were not necessary?
OSHA: The employer must make an initial decision about the need for days away from work, a work restriction or medical treatment based on the information available, including any recommendation by a physician or other licensed health care professional. Where the employer receives contemporaneous recommendations from two or more physicians or other licensed health care professionals about the need for days away, a work restriction, or medical treatment, the employer may decide which recommendation is the most authoritative and record the case based on that recommendation. Once the days away from work or work restriction have occurred or medical treatment has been given, however, the employer may not delete the log entry because of a physician’s recommendation, based on a year-end review of the log, that the days away, restriction or treatment was. Once the employee has taken time off or received the medical treatment, the case cannot be deleted.

Is a positive COVID-19 test considered an illness?
OSHA: Yes.

Are work-related illnesses considered recordable if only one of the OSHA severity thresholds has been met?
OSHA: Yes.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Fairfax (CIH, retired 2017) joined OSHA in January 1978 and retired from the agency in 2013. At OSHA, he was a practicing field industrial hygienist, as well as the deputy director and director of enforcement programs. In 2008, Richard served as acting director of construction and, in 2010, was designated deputy assistant secretary – overseeing all field, enforcement and training operations. From 1993 through 2010, Richard wrote an industrial hygiene column entitled, “OSHA Compliance Issues” for the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. He still serves on the Editorial Review Board. Richard now works part time for NSC-ORC HSE.

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