Employers outside the healthcare industry will not be required to notify federal authorities when an employee gets sick with COVID-19, according to new guidance from OSHA.
The guidance recognizes that some employers outside healthcare and two other areas "may have difficulty determining whether a worker who contracted COVID-19 got it from exposure to the coronavirus at work," the agency said in the April 10 interim guidance.
"In light of those difficulties, OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion in order to provide certainty to the regulated community."
Unlike the flu or common cold, COVID-19 is a recordable illness if it is "work related," meaning that exposure in the workplace either caused or contributed to the resulting condition, which then requires employers to notify OSHA when a worker gets ill from that exposure at work.
OSHA is limiting the reporting requirement to employers in healthcare, emergency response—such as police, firefighters, EMTs—and corrections, settings where contracting COVID-19 is more likely.
OSHA will not require other employers to make the same work-relatedness determinations, except where:
- When there's "objective evidence" that a COVID-19 case may be work-related, such as when the illness developed among employees who work in close proximity without any other explanation
- The evidence was reasonably available to the employer, including information received from employees, and information an employer learns about employee health and safety through the ordinary course of business
"This will help employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces, and otherwise mitigating COVID-19's effects, rather than on making difficult work-relatedness decisions in circumstances where there is community transmission," OSHA said.