Federal safety officials will hold employers responsible for recording cases of coronavirus only if it is work-related, the U.S. Labor Dept.'s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said April 10, responding to requests from employers.

Industry employers sought guidance from the department last month, after it seemed to place responsibility on them for recording all cases among employees. That practice, employers argued, would have distorted safety records and burdened employers with record-keeping for illnesses contracted at home or away from the job.

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In a memo, OSHA wrote that employers need not record instances of infected employees unless the case is confirmed as COVID-19, as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the case is work-related. A number of cases among employees who work together is one indication to an employer that the case is work-related. If workers or employees give employers evidence that the case was work-related, employers must record the case.

Employers are responsible for reporting, rather than recording, injuries and illnesses that cause workers to lose time on the job or which require treatment outside the workplace.

Separate criteria require employers to maintain OSHA 300 logs of all workplace injuries. Such logs are important for employers to understand safety flaws and may be inspected by OSHA at any time, especially if there is an accident investigation.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which includes contractor associations such as the Associated Builders and Contractors, had requested the clarification from OSHA on March 23.

"Treating confirmed cases of COVID-19 as typical 'illnesses' under the rule has the potential to skew the national statistics on injuries and illnesses and put construction employers in an almost impossible position of determining work-relatedness for a virus that is spread easily—like the common cold and flu—and is becoming widespread in all communities across the country," the coalition wrote.

ABC said in a statement that the updated OSHA guidance "will continue to let contractors focus on taking the necessary steps to ensure compliance with health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and overall jobsite safety."