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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued revised enforcement guidance to help employers evaluate whether a workplace case of COVID-19 is recordable.
While the guidance, released Tuesday for OSHA regional administrators and OSHA-approved State Plans, does not remove an employer’s requirement to evaluate any positive cases of coronavirus reported by employees for work-relatedness, it does provide examples to help weigh the likelihood that the virus was acquired in the workplace rather than in the general community.
“Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now been found in nearly all parts of the country, and outbreaks among workers in industries other than health care, emergency response, or correctional institutions have been identified,” said OSHA in the memorandum. “Given the nature of the disease and ubiquity of community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a COVID-19 illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace.”
The guidance directs workplace safety and health investigators to consider an employer’s ability to make extensive medical inquiries to confirm the work-relatedness of a workers’ COVID-19 claim. It says an employer’s efforts are “sufficient in most circumstances” if it asks workers who make COVID-19 claims how they believe they contracted the virus and what type of activities they were engaged in both in and out of work that could have led to virus exposure, and reviews the work environment for potential exposures.
The memo also provides scenarios for COVID-19 acquisition that is more likely work-related, such as if the COVID-19-positive worker contracted the virus shortly after lengthy, close exposure to a particular customer or coworker with confirmed COVID-19 and no alternative explanation, or if the worker’s job duties put them in frequent, close exposure during a community outbreak with no other explanation for acquisition.
In cases in which a worker does not have frequent contact with the general public or a worker frequently associates with individuals outside of work who have COVID-19, the memo says the illness is likely not work-related.
The guidance will take effect May 26, replacing previous memoranda on COVID-19 recordability, and will remain in effect until further notice.
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.