California employers that are required to record work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses must record a work-related COVID-19 fatality or illness like any other occupational illness. To be recordable, an illness must be work-related and result 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.
  • A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.

If a work-related COVID-19 case meets one of these criteria, then covered employers in California must record the case on their 300, 300A and 301 or equivalent forms.

While it is preferred that the COVID-19 case be confirmed through testing, there may be situations where testing did not occur or results are not available to the employer. If an employee has COVID-19 symptoms, the case would be recordable if it met one of the recording criteria shown above.  Cal/OSHA recommends erring on the side of recordability.


To determine if the employee was exposed in the work environment, did the employee

  • have interaction with people with COVID-19?
  • work in the same area where people known to have COVID-19 had been?
  • share tools, materials or vehicles with persons known to have COVID-19?

Given the disease’s incubation period of 3 to 14 days, exposures will usually be determined after the fact.

If there is not a known exposure incident, then evaluate the employee’s work duties and environment to determine the likelihood of workplace exposure. Consider the following:

  1. The type, extent and duration of contact the employee had at the work environment with other people, particularly the general public.
  2. Physical distancing and other controls that impact the likelihood of work-related exposure.
  3. Whether the employee had work-related contact with anyone who exhibited signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Do not record time spent in quarantine in “days away from work” column.

Reporting to Cal-OSHA

In addition to the above recordkeeping requirements, California employers must also report to Cal/OSHA any serious illness, serious injury or death of an employee that occurred at work or in connection with work within eight hours of when they knew or should have known of the illness. (This includes a COVID-19 illness if it meets the definition of serious illness.)

A serious illness includes, among other things, any illness occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment that requires inpatient hospitalization for other than medical observation or diagnostic testing. (This means that if a worker becomes ill while at work and is admitted as in-patient at a hospital — regardless of the duration of the hospitalization — the illness occurred in a place of employment, so the employer must report this illness to the nearest Cal/OSHA office. Reports must be made immediately, but not longer than eight hours after the employer knows or with diligent inquiry would have known of the serious illness.

For reporting purposes, if the employee became sick 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.

Reportable illnesses are not limited to instances when the employee becomes ill at work. Serious illnesses include illnesses contracted “in connection with any employment,” which can include those contracted in connection with work but with symptoms that begin to appear outside of work. 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.

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.

Even if a suspected COVID-19 case has not been diagnosed by a licensed health professional, an employer should still report it to Cal/OSHA if the illness occurred in connection to any employment as described above and if it resulted in death or in-patient hospitalization.   

Reporting a serious illness is not an admission that the illness is work-related, nor is it an admission of responsibility.

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