OSHA Issues First COVID-19 Related Citation and Possible Fine

On May 18th, OSHA sent out its first COVID-19 related citation and possible fine to a nursing home in Georgia.  Six of their nursing home employees were hospitalized as early as April 19th as a result of COVID-19, which was contracted while at work.  The nursing home waited to report the hospitalization until May 5th.  The fine OSHA has proposed is $6,506 for the alleged violation.  OSHA has classified the violation as “other than serious.”

Employers must generally report incidents to federal OSHA when an employee fatality occurs within eight hours of the incident/accident or when an employee suffers an in-patient work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours.  OSHA alleges the employer violated this rule, by waiting over three (3) weeks after the to report the injury and hospitalization.  For all in-patient hospitalization admissions including if an employee is hospitalized because of COVID-19 and the employee contracted it while at work, employers must report to OSHA the in-patient hospitalization but only if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the virus being contracted by the employee.

According to guidance on OSHA’s website (www.osha.gov), COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and thus employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  2. The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7.

As of May 26th, OSHA is enforcing the recordkeeping requirements for employee COVID-19 illnesses, not just for high-risk industries but for all employers.  OSHA’s website also states that “In all events, it is important as a matter of worker health and safety, as well as public health, for an employer to examine COVID-19 cases among workers and respond appropriately to protect workers, regardless of whether a case is ultimately determined to be work-related.”