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Q&A Guidance Issued for Employers on Recording and Reporting Work-Related COVID-19 Fatalities and Illnesses

June 02, 2020

On May 27, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued Q&A guidance for employers on recording and reporting work-related COVID-19 fatalities and illnesses.

Questions addressed include:

  • Do employers have to record COVID-19 illnesses on their Log 300?
  • Does a COVID-19 case have to be confirmed to be recordable?
  • How does an employer determine if a COVID-19 case is work-related for recordkeeping purposes?
  • Is the time an employee spends in quarantine considered “days away from work” for recording purposes?
  • When do employers have to report COVID-19 illnesses to Cal/OSHA immediately?
  • What if the employee became sick at work but the illness is not work-related?
  • What if an employee started to show symptoms outside of work?
  • Do I report an illness even if COVID-19 has not yet been diagnosed?
  • Am I admitting to liability when I report a serious illness?

Cal/OSHA Recordkeeping:

Some employers, such as schools and colleges, qualify for the partial exemption from Cal/OSHA recordkeeping requirements. This partial exemption does not apply if the school district or community college receives a written request from Cal/OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Unless an employer qualifies for the partial exemption, they must comply with recordkeeping requirements (see our May 2020 Loss Control Bulletin for more details about who qualifies for the partial exemption).

Absent qualifying for the recording keeping exemption, the guidance states that 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 guidance states that 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

Moreover, the guidance recommends that employers err on the side of recordability when deciding whether to record a COVID-19 fatality or illness.

With regard to the question of “work-relatedness,” Cal/OSHA guidance provides that 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 Cal-OSHA’s presumption of work-relatedness, the employer must evaluate the employee’s duties and environment to determine the likelihood of exposure. Cal/OSHA notes that 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 exhibit signs and symptoms of COVID-19

Employers should note that this is a very different standard than the currently-effective rebuttable presumption that a case of COVID-19 arises out of and is incurred in the course of employment for purposes of workers compensation. For more information, please review the Keenan Briefing regarding that presumption.

Cal/OSHA Serious Illness or Injury Reporting:

The guidance also reminds employers that if the employee became sick while at work, it does not matter if the illness is work-related. Employers must report all serious injuries, illnesses or deaths occurring at work without making a determination about work-relatedness. Unlike Cal/OSHA recordkeeping, there is no partial exemption for reporting serious injuries, illnesses or deaths. Cal/OSHA notes that some respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing can be caused by a variety of occupational exposures, and that it is important for employers to report these cases to Cal/OSHA so that it can make the preliminary determination of work-relatedness.

Cal/OSHA also advises that an employer should report a serious illness if there is cause to believe the illness may be work-related, regardless of whether the onset of symptoms occurred at work. The guidance states that evidence suggesting transmission at or during work would make a case of COVID-19 reportable. The guidance advises employers to consider the following factors when the onset of symptoms begins outside of the workplace, including:

  • 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

Finally, the guidance states that even if an employer cannot confirm that the employee contracted COVID-19 at work, the employer should report the illness to Cal/OSHA if it results in in-patient hospitalization for treatment and if there is 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.

The complete Q&A can be found at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Reporting-Requirements-COVID-19.html


Keenan & Associates is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the clients’ business activities.