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On May 27, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Division”), also known as Cal/OSHA, issued the following guidance for employers regarding recording and reporting requirements pertaining to COVID-19 cases:

Recording Requirements 

Q1: Do employers have to record COVID-19 illnesses on their Log 300?  

California employers are required to record a work-related COVID-19 fatality or illness (on their 300, 300A, and 301 or equivalent forms), if there is a positive test result for COVID-19.  If the case is not confirmed through testing, or the results are not available to an employer, the case would still be recordable if it is work-related and results in one of the following:

  • Death
  • Days away from work
  • Restricted work or transfer to another job
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional

Cal/OSHA recommends erring on the side of recordability when deciding whether to record a COVID-19 fatality or illness.

Q2: How does an employer determine if a COVID-19 case is work-related for recordkeeping purposes? 

For recordkeeping purposes, a COVID-19 case is considered work-related if there was a known exposure in one of the following instances:

  • Exposure to people in the workplace known to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)
  • Working in the same area where people carrying SARS-CoV-2 were located
  • Sharing tools, materials, or vehicles with persons known to have been carrying SARS-CoV-2

If there is not a known exposure that would trigger the presumption of work-relatedness, the employer must evaluate the employee’s duties and environment to determine the likelihood of exposure.  Such factors include:

  • The type, extent and duration of contact the employee had at the work environment with other people, particularly the general public
  • Physical distancing and other controls that impact the likelihood of work-related exposure
  • Whether the employee had work-related contact with anyone who exhibited signs and symptoms of COVID-19

Q3: Is time an employee spends in quarantine considered “days away from work” for recording purposes? 

No.  Time spent in quarantine is not considered “days away from work” for purposes of recording, unless the employee also has another work-related illness that would otherwise require days away from work.

Reporting Requirements

Q1: When do employers have to report COVID-19 illnesses to Cal/OSHA?

California employers must report to Cal/OSHA a COVID-19 illness that occurs in connection with work within eight hours of when the employer knew or should have known of the illness.  A COVID-19 illness must be reported if it occurs within a place of employment or in connection with any employment that requires inpatient hospitalization for other than medical observation or diagnostic testing.

For example, if a worker becomes ill while at work and is admitted to a hospital, regardless of the duration of the hospitalization, the illness occurred in a place of employment, so the employer must report this illness to the nearest Cal/OSHA office.  Reports must be made immediately, but no longer than eight hours after the employer knows, or with diligent inquiry should have known, of the serious illness.

If employees are part of a multi-employer worksite, the host employer and the primary employer should both report the illness to Cal/OSHA.

Q2: What if the employee became sick at work but the illness is not work-related?

For reporting purposes, if the employee becomes sick at work, it does not matter if the illness is work-related.  Employers must still report all serious injuries, illnesses or deaths occurring at work without making a determination about work-relatedness.  For example, respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing prevalent in COVID-19 cases can be caused by a variety of occupational exposures.  It is important for employers to report these cases to Cal/OSHA so that the Division can make the preliminary determination of work-relatedness.

Q3: What if an employee started to show symptoms outside of work? 

An employer should report a serious illness if there is reason to believe the illness may be work-related, regardless of whether the onset of symptoms occurred at work.  For COVID-19 cases, evidence suggesting transmission at or during work would make a serious illness reportable.  Employers should consider the following factors in making their determination:

  • Multiple cases in the workplace
  • The type, extent and duration of contact the employee had at the work environment with other people, particularly the general public
  • Physical distancing and other controls that impact the likelihood of work-related exposure
  • Whether the employee had work-related contact with anyone who exhibited signs and symptoms of COVID-19

Even if the employer cannot confirm that the employee contracted COVID-19 at work, the employer should report the illness to Cal/OSHA if it results in inpatient hospitalization for treatment and if there is a substantial reason to believe that the employee was exposed in their work environment.  Where there is uncertainty about whether an employee contracted COVID-19 at work, the employer should err on the side of reporting the illness to Cal/OSHA.

Q4: Do I report an illness even if COVID-19 has not yet been diagnosed?

Yes.  Even if a suspected COVID-19 case has not been diagnosed by a licensed health professional, an employer should still report it to Cal/OSHA if the illness occurred in connection with any employment and if it resulted in death or inpatient hospitalization.

Q5: Am I admitting to liability when I report a serious illness?

No.  Reporting a serious illness is not an admission that the illness is work-related, nor is it an admission of responsibility.

Employers that need further clarification regarding the recording or reporting requirements for COVID-19 should consult counsel.