Without advance notice or request for comment, OSHA issued a revised enforcement memo stating that it will enforce record keeping requirements as they apply to confirmed, work-related COVID-19 illness.

A COVID-19 case must be recorded on the OSHA 300 log if:

  1. It is a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis;
  2. It is work-related; and
  3. It involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7 (death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, or a diagnosis of a significant illness by a healthcare provider).

OSHA recognized in its memo that it is difficult to determine if the COVID-19 illness is work-related, especially when employees have exposure inside and outside of the workplace. OSHA defined the following criteria for determining whether the illness is work-related:

  1. Conduct a reasonable investigation, using all reasonably available evidence (at the time of the investigation):
    1. Ask the employee how he/she believes he/she contracted COVID-19;
    2. Discuss with the employee work and outside work activities that might have resulted in exposure; and
    3. Review the work environment for possible exposure (e.g., other incidents of employees contracting COVID-19).
  2. Weigh the evidence, considering the following:
    1. COVID-19 is likely work-related when several cases develop among workers in close proximity, with no alternative explanation.
    2. COVID-19 is likely work-related if the diagnosis follows shortly after a lengthy, close exposure to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19, with no alternative explanation.
    3. COVID-19 is likely work-related if the employee’s job duties involve frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community spread, with no alternative explanation.
    4. COVID-19 is likely NOT work-related if the employee, outside the workplace, closely associates with someone who is not a co-worker (e.g., a family member, significant other, or close friend) who has COVID-19 and exposed the employee during the period in which the individual was infectious.
    5. COVID-19 is likely NOT work-related if the employee is the only employee to contract COVID-19 in his/her vicinity and his/her job duties do not include having frequent contact with the general public.
    6. The employer should give weight to any evidence of causation from medical providers, public health authorities, and the employee.

If the cause is neither likely or not likely work-related (i.e., a tie on causation), the employer does not need to record the illness. Upon employee request, the employer can omit the employee’s name from the OSHA 300 log.

Keep in mind that employers with 10 or fewer employees and in certain low hazard industries have no recording obligations and only need to report fatalities, in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye. In addition, this guidance is time-limited and will expire when the COVID-19 pandemic ends.