Updated OSHA guidance on reporting cases

On May 26, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated guidance on reporting cases of work-place related COVID-19 infections on the OSHA 300 log. Conducting the investigation into whether workers with COVID-19 contracted it at work is important, but determining a work-place infection is difficult because the virus is so widespread.

One option employers have is to document any alternative explanations for the cause of the illness to prevent OSHA penalties. Employers usually will be fine if they conduct case-by-case workplace analyses for employees who have contracted COVID-19 and either conclude an illness is not work-related or record it in the OSHA 300 log if it is. (Caption- Safety First)


You may be exempt

Businesses with less than 10 employees are exempt from reporting — as are certain types of business (check here to see if your business needs to do OSHA’s record-keeping). The recent guidance update includes COVID-19 in record keeping requirements.


What actions related to OSHA compliance should you take if an employee has COVD-19?

  • If someone at work contracts the coronavirus, investigate the cause, and document the investigation.
  • If the case is not work-related, carefully document the reasons why not. This may not prevent an OSHA citation, but it can be useful for a company defending itself against paying penalties.
  • If the case IS work-related, report it on the OSHA 300 log.


An employee’s COVID-19 illness is more likely to be work-related if any of the following apply:

  • There is a cluster of employees who have tested positive.
  • An employee tests positive shortly after long-term interaction with someone else at work who also tested positive.
  • A worker has regular, frequent exposure to the public.


Who knows who?


An employee’s COVID-19 illness is less likely to be work-related if any of the following apply:

  • If there is an alternative, non-work explanation, for example if an infected employee went grocery shopping, went to a place of worship, or took public transportation.
  • If an employer has a large workplace, and there are dozens of cases, but the employees do not work with each other, their cases are likely not work-related, even if they are in a single workplace.
  • Even if there is a cluster of workers in a single work location who have the coronavirus, there could be another explanation that is not work-related. Look for commonalities among the group that has contracted the virus. Uncovering these alternative reasons is time consuming, but in most cases COVID-19 is likely to be non-work related and therefore unrecordable in the OSHA 300 log. (Image caption Who knows who?)


What should an investigation include:

OSHA does not expect you to perform extensive medical inquiries or conduct in-depth investigations into employees’ out-of-work activities beyond these efforts:

  • Asking employees how they believe they contracted COVID-19.
  • Discussing with employees their work activities and activities outside of work that may have led to the COVID-19 illness.
  • Reviewing employees’ work environment for potential COVID-19 exposure, including whether other workers in that location have contracted COVID-19.




Kate Wells is a veteran small business owner and HR expert. She acts as Chief HR Officer for small and startup businesses who need HR expertise without the employee overhead. Her greatest joy is in setting employees, and therefore the business, up for success. Knowledgeable in the ways of business and people she is a consultant who gets stuff done — efficiently, effectively, affordably. Kate has two adult daughters, a lifetime sweetheart, and enjoys hiking, biking, reading, jigsaw puzzles, and building things with power tools.


Contact Info: 503-329-4829  https://www.linkedin.com/in/katewellsmba/ https://www.facebook.com/azuritellc  kate.wells@azuritebusinessconsulting.com




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