By Brad Sant, senior vice president of safety & education, ARTBA

A recent U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) communication stated, “COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties.” The comment has created angst and confusion for employers who are already struggling both to keep their workforces and businesses operating.

While OSHA maintains that such an exposure could be a recordable incident, the reality is that is very unlikely. For an exposure for COVID-19 – or any other sickness including a common cold or flu – to be recordable, that exposure must occur under a specific set of circumstances where a person’s job was the likely source of the virus.  That is why employers, particularly those in construction, are rarely if ever cited for such exposures.

OSHA provided clarification on the matter on its webpage. Generally, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if it is:

  • confirmed as COVID-19 (as prescribed by the U.S. Center for Disease Control);
  • work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  • involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g. medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work).

As noted, work-related injuries or illness are recordable under certain circumstances. If an employer has a confirmed COVID-19 case of an employee AND the work environment was the likely cause or contributing factor, THEN the COVID-19 case MIGHT be recordable.  Again, employers should look to 29 CFR 1904.7 for guidance that explains the conditions for recordable illnesses.  These include:

  • The employee receives medical treatment beyond first aid (e.g. sees a doctor; is prescribed medicine, etc.);
  • The doctor or employer requires the employee to work under “restricted duty”; and
  • Days away from work (lost time) is mandated by the treating physician (meaning the employee is kept from work and cannot work at home due to the virus).