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COVID-19: OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting Considerations


As the number of cases of and deaths attributed to COVID-19 increase, employers should re-familiarize themselves with the recordkeeping and reporting requirements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Is COVID-19 a Recordable Illness?

Section 1904.46 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 defines an injury or illness as “an abnormal condition or disorder. … Illnesses include both acute and chronic illnesses, such as, but not limited to, a skin disease, respiratory disorder, or poisoning.”

Injuries and illnesses are recordable only if they are new, work-related cases that meet one or more of OSHA’s recording criteria.

Unless a specific exception applies, an injury or illness is generally presumed to be work-related if an event or exposure occurring in the work environment is the discernable cause of the injury or illness or a significant aggravation of a preexisting condition.

COVID-19 qualifies as a recordable illness in cases where a worker is infected as a result of performing work-related duties. It is subject to the same rules and failure-to-record fines as other workplace injuries and illnesses. The determination of whether an infection is work-related is the employer’s responsibility.

As of April 10, 2020, only employers in the health care industry, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions will be required to record COVID-19 cases. Other employers will be expected to implement good hygiene practices and record COVID-19 cases only if there is objective evidence that such cases may be work-related and the evidence was reasonably available to the employer.

Lost Time Recordkeeping

If an employee receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, the employee must have a note from a physician or other licensed health care professional to support the number of days away from work. An employee who does not seek medical attention and takes a day or more off to self-medicate or rest/recover on their own without the counsel of a medical professional does not qualify as a day or days away from work.

Serious Injury Reporting

The OSHA standard for reporting fatality, injury, and illness information to the government — 29 CFR 1904.39 — applies to all employers. Companies that operate establishments in states with state-operated OSHA plans may have slightly different requirements, and businesses should become familiar with rules in each relevant state.

OSHA has a number of specific requirements, which are discussed in more detail in COVID-19: OSHA Recordkeeping, Reporting, and Return-to-Work Considerations.

Unique Situations to Consider 

It is the responsibility of each employer to investigate every confirmed positive COVID-19 case. According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 may appear between two and 14 days after exposure. We recommend creating a list of all employees who have had physical or close proximity interactions with a diagnosed employee. Employers should maintain communications with all at-risk employees.

Exemptions to Injury and Illness Reporting Rules

Employers with 10 or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records. However, if a business has more than 10 employees across several establishments in a calendar year, all establishments are then subject to the OSHA recordkeeping rules, unless otherwise exempt.

Establishments in certain low-hazard industries are partially exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records.

We encourage you to visit the OSHA webpage, or the respective state website in those jurisdictions with state plans, to inform your decisions.