This question is becoming more common, “I have an employee that is positive for COVID-19, do I need to record it on the OSHA forms and report it to OSHA?”  If this is you, take a deep breath through your facemask.  Know that you have plenty of resources available to help you make these determinations – and, it is important that you take advantage of these resources.  While under-recording and under-reporting can result in penalties and enforcement actions, on the flip-side, over-recording and over-reporting are not best business practices.  Over-recording and over-reporting can negatively impact industry statistics, can result in unnecessary enforcement against your dealership and the industry as a whole, and open your dealership up to liability.

Generally speaking, work-related injuries and illness that result in a fatality, days away from work, a job transfer or restriction, medical treatment beyond first aid, hearing loss, and loss of consciousness must be recorded on the OSHA forms (if your dealership has more than 10 employees, but there are limitations and exceptions).  Generally, catastrophic events like fatalities, amputations, loss of an eye, and impatient hospitalizations must be reported if they occur within a certain amount of time of the incident (but there are limitations and exceptions to these reporting requirements).

Before a COVID-19 case is recorded or reported, it must be determined whether the case was “work-related.”  That typically means that the employee was most likely injured, or succumbed to illness, as a result of being in the working environment.  OSHA acknowledges that “work-related” determinations can be difficult, but there are a few factors that OSHA has identified as weighing in favor of a “work-related” determination:

  • Several cases developing among workers who work closely together when there is no alternative explanation;
  • Contracting COVID-19 shortly after lengthy, close exposure to another worker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19; and
  • Frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission when there is no alternative explanation.

On the other hand, there are a couple of factors that OSHA has identified as weighing against a “work-related” determination:

  • The employee is the only worker that contracted COVID-19 and there is no frequent contact with the general public; and
  • The employee frequently associates with someone outside of the workplace that has COVID-19 and likely exposed the employee.

If a COVID-19 case is not work-related, it does not need to be recorded or reported.  If a COVID-19 case is work-related, it will only be recordable on the OSHA forms if it results in a fatality, days away from work, a job transfer or restriction, medical treatment beyond first aid, hearing loss, or a loss of consciousness.  Regarding reporting to OSHA, reporting would only need to happen if it results in a fatality, amputation, loss of an eye, or an impatient hospitalization within specific time-frames.

Worker-related fatalities must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours of the death if the worker dies within 30 days of the incident.  So, if a worker contracts COVID-19 at work and dies 20 days later, that is a reportable case.  If the worker contracts COVID-19 at work and dies 40 days later, that is not a reportable case unless there is another reason to report (it is still recordable, however).  Work-related amputations, eye losses, and impatient hospitalization must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours, but only if one of those things occur within 24 hours of the incident (i.e., within 24 hours of contracting the virus). Of course, most COVID-19 patients do not show signs or symptoms for at least 2 days after contracting the virus, so it is very unlikely that an employer would ever need to report to OSHA on the basis of an amputation, eye loss, or impatient hospitalization.  Also, note that an emergency room or urgent care visit does not qualify as impatient hospitalization – that is outpatient services.  If an employee is ever formally admitted to a hospital’s impatient services, the medical records will state the date and time that this occurred.

There are many nuances to OSHA’s recording and reporting requirements, but understanding what is outlined herein will provide you with a solid foundation to understanding your obligations.

ABOUT COMPLYNET:  Founded in 1994, ComplyNet has emerged as an automotive industry leader in compliance and risk mitigation solutions in the area of Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), Sales, Finance, Information Security, and Human Resources.  ComplyNet combines its on-site services and its intuitive software-as-a-solution services to help dealerships, service centers, and body shops reduce risk, achieve compliance, and retain talent.  ComplyNet serves over 1,000 dealers across the United States, including multiple dealership groups in the top 150.