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When government-ordered shutdowns began in March to curtail the spread of COVID-19, few could have foreseen that workplace contraction of the coronavirus would constitute a recordable illness as mandated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The guidance came as a shock to most, and the article detailing it was the most read story of 2020 on Business Insurance’s website.
A month later, OSHA backtracked on the guidance, stating that it would not enforce recordkeeping requirements for COVID-19 in most industries located in places experiencing community transmission but would require health care employers, emergency response organizations and correctional institutions to continue to make work-relatedness determinations of coronavirus contraction.
In May the agency changed course again, asking all employers to investigate positive COVID-19 cases and record those that potentially were acquired in the workplace.
“It’s a shifting landscape out there,” said Eric Conn, Washington-based founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey LLP.
While OSHA has not issued an emergency temporary standard for employers on protecting workers from the virus, it has released additional guidance on social distancing, personal protective equipment usage and disinfecting procedures. The agency also began issuing fines in the fall to employers that failed to report likely workplace transmissions, failed to implement proper PPE programs or violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause.