OSHA/COVID-19  Update

By Kirk Sosebee, Brett Marston, and Spencer Wiegard

In this difficult time for employers, OSHA has placed another new requirement on their plate. Not only are employers encouraged to take extra steps and precautions to help protect their employees’ health and safety, new guidance from OSHA requires employers to record, and in some cases report, instances of coronavirus that are contracted by their employees on the jobsite.

Employers have a general duty to record and report certain work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA. Unlike the common cold or flu, which are excluded from OSHA’s recording and reporting requirements, OSHA is considering COVID-19 to be an “illness” that must be recorded by employees if it is “work-related,” just like other workplace injuries and illnesses. Work-related in this context means contracted as part of the employees’ work, while they were on the jobsite. If an employee contracts COVID-19 from someplace other than the workplace and exhibits symptoms while they are at work, it would not be considered work-related and would not have to be recorded. Also, only confirmed cases of COVID-19 need be recorded, not suspected cases. In addition to recording these cases, employers are also required to report them to OSHA if they result in in-patient hospitalization within 24 hours or in a fatality within 30 days of the work-related exposure to COVID-19.

Bottom line: an employer should record if an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19 that he or she contracted in the workplace, and also report to OSHA if the COVID-19 illness results in death within 30 days or in-patient hospitalization within 24 hours.

New guidance from the Department of Labor:

1. A new OSHA chart outlines safety steps to take based on worker exposure risk by industry.

2. Workers have the right to report an unsafe workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. Three new animated videos provide quick tips on social distancing, disinfecting workplaces, and industry risk factors to keep workers safe from COVID-19.

4. Reminder: Employers must post their Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.

Further reading:

Other OSHA standards that may apply to COVID-19:

  • OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
    • When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
      • OSHA has issued temporary guidance related to enforcement of respirator annual fit-testing requirements for healthcare.
    • The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

OSHA has also published a general “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19,” available at

OSHA’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage:

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These articles are provided for general informational purposes only and are marketing publications of Gentry Locke. They do not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You are urged to consult your own lawyer concerning your situation and specific legal questions you may have.