Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration declared that coronavirus was a recordable injury – meaning an employer would have to notify the federal safety agency when a worker caught the disease at work- and issued guidance to that effect.
OSHA recordkeeping requirements at 29 CFR Part 1904 mandate covered employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log.
COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are met:
— The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19);
— The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
— The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g. medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work).
Bloomberg news reports that safety attorneys said the guidance left confusion about how to prove whether a worker actually contracted the virus on the job.
Health-care workers and emergency responders will benefit from rules eased in some states around workers’ compensation that will allow them to collect benefits if they can prove they caught Covid-19 on the job. Some say essential workers like grocery store employees and delivery workers also should qualify.
But employers need to be aware of the changing rules, and be prepared for the likely end result – skyrocketing premiums.
State workers’ compensation boards around the country are amending rules for benefits payouts to include health-care workers exposed to the virus and then quarantined.
Attorneys are keeping a close eye on the questions, such as who should be eligible to receive benefits, how does a worker prove they caught Covid-19 on the job, and how will an influx of successful claims affect businesses’ premiums to insurance carriers.
“If everybody who gets sick on the job is able to file a compensation claim and everyone is successful, it may bankrupt a company,” said Michael Duff, a workers’ compensation professor at the University of Wyoming.