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OSHA expands COVID-19 work-relatedness determination requirement to include most employers

May 20, 2020

On May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new enforcement guidance, which requires most employers to now determine whether an employee’s 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnosis is work-related. If an employer determines that an employee’s COVID-19 case is work-related, and otherwise meets the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7, then the illness must be recorded on the employer’s OSHA 300 log.

Under OSHA’s previous interim guidance, released on April 10, 2020, only employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations, correctional institutions and those that had objective “reasonably available” evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related were required to make a work-relatedness determination. 

Importantly, the new guidance does not require employers to undertake extensive medical inquiries to evaluate work-relatedness. Rather, it is sufficient, in most instances, for employers to make a reasonable work-relatedness determination by:

  1. Asking the employee how they believe they contracted COVID-19
  2. Discussing the employee’s work and out of work activities that may have led to contracting the illness
  3. Reviewing the employee’s work environment for potential exposure

If, after the reasonable and good faith inquiry described above, the employer cannot determine that it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role with respect to a particular case of COVID-19, the employer does not need to record that COVID-19 illness in its OSHA 300 log.

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