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Most Employers Won’t Have to Track Worker Virus Infections

April 10, 2020, 10:18 PM

Federal workplace safety regulators stepped back from requiring most employers to determine whether workers were stricken with the coronavirus while on the job.

Now, in most circumstances, only employers in the health-care industry, emergency response organizations such as police and fire departments, and correctional institutions will have to make the determination, according to new Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance released Friday.

Construction contractors, manufacturers, and other employers won’t have to make the determination unless there’s “objective evidence that a Covid-19 case may be work-related” and “the evidence was reasonably available to the employer.”

The guidance said objective evidence could include “a number of cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation.”


OSHA’s recordkeeping rule (29 C.F.R. 1904) requires hundreds of thousands of employers to include in federally mandated logs any work-related illness that leads to a worker missing a day or more on the job or medical treatment beyond first aid.

Since OSHA announced in early March that coronavirus cases would have to be recorded, industry groups have said it would be too difficult and time consuming to determine if an employee became sick because of work or contracted the disease elsewhere.

OSHA’s announcement acknowledged that concern. The policy will “help employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces and otherwise mitigating Covid-19’s effects,” the agency said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at; Karl Hardy at