In an attempt to assist workplaces with their responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, OSHA has issued a guidance document entitled “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19,” with basic steps employers can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure. Those steps include:
- Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan
- Prepare and implement basic infection prevention measures
- Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people
- Develop, implement, and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections
- Implement workplace controls
- Follow existing OSHA standards
OSHA’s guidance encourages employers to classify the risk of worker exposure, which will depend on the industry type, the need for contact and the requirement of extended contact with employees. There are specific recommendations for jobs classified as low risk (e.g. minimal contact with public), medium exposure risk (e.g. schools, retail), and high or very high exposure risk (e.g. healthcare). Recommendations relate to engineering controls (ranging from physical barriers to isolation rooms), administrative controls (access to information, minimizing contact, medical monitoring), and personal protective equipment (gloves, face mask, goggles, respirators).
Many employers may be wondering whether COVID-19 is a reportable injury or illness that should be included on 300 Logs. Initial guidance from OSHA on March 10, 2020, seemed to discount the near impossibility of determining whether in fact an employee contracted COVID-19 on the job. Since that time, OSHA has revised its position. Below is a summary of when COVID-19 would qualify as a reportable injury to be included on an employer’s 300 Log.
COVID-19 is only reportable when all of the following criteria are met:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (CDC provides guidelines regarding persons under investigation, presumptive positive, and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVD-19);
- The case is work-related under 29 CFR 1904.5; and
- The case is recordable—i.e., results in one or more the following: death; days away from work; restricted work or transfer to another job; medical treatment beyond first aid; loss of consciousness; a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or licensed healthcare provider.
Injuries or illnesses are considered “work-related” when an event or exposure in the work environment contributes to or causes the illness or injury. Cases are presumed work-related only if the event or exposure is a “discernable cause” of the illness or injury or significantly aggravates a preexisting condition. In order to determine whether the event or exposure occurred in the work environment or away from work, employers may need to evaluate the employee’s work duties and environment. Injuries and illnesses that occur while an employee is traveling are work-related if the employee was engaged in work activities “in the interest of the employer.”
In the event that you have questions or concerns about implementing workplace safety measures related to COVID-19 or whether to report a possible case of COVID-19, contact a member of the Hirschler team.
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