The Long-term Effects of COVID-19 on Government Contractors
COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. Business entities holding government contracts may face ramifications for years to come from the changes that have occurred due to the pandemic. Reporting of your OSHA Total Number of Recordable Cases (TRC) and Total Number of Cases with Days Away/Restricted/Transferred (DART) rates, repercussions on your performance evaluations, the long-term health ramifications for employees and the fallout to your company’s bottom line are just a few. To help you better understand the magnitude of the pandemic and its potential long-term impact on your business, we introduce some items below for your consideration.
According to the Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) published by the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on May 19, 2020, the following changes were implemented.
Under OSHA's recordkeeping requirements, 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.
Furthermore, the document states:
Given the nature of the disease and ubiquity of community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a COVID-19 illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. In light of these considerations, OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion in order to provide certainty to employers and workers. Accordingly, until further notice, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee COVID-19 illnesses for all employers according to the guidelines below.
Those guidelines and further information are available at the following link:
Specific enforcement guidance is provided for Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) stating “COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and should be coded as such on the OSHA Form 300.” This requirement has long-lasting consequences as government solicitations often call for TRC and DART rates when submitting a proposal. With the changes implemented by OSHA, contractors that have an impeccable safety record may be faced with TRC and DART rates that negatively skew their job-site safety record. Additionally, contractors may now have to deal with Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) evaluations and/or Past Performance Questionnaires (PPQs) that are impaired by COVID-19 related issues. If a solicitation allows for narrative on problems and corrective actions, this may be overcome by an explanation of the issues encountered on a project due to COVID-19.
One further item that companies are now having to consider is their possible exposure to future claims for health-related issues as a result of having to report COVID-19 illnesses per the above OSHA guidelines. The long-term health ramifications of COVID-19 simply aren’t known yet and businesses are faced with potential liability for employees that develop organ damage, respiratory challenges or blood vessel problems (just to name a few) years down the road. Defending against those claims are problematic as 1) the health issue may or may not be a direct result of COVID-19, and 2) proving the place of employment was not the location of exposure is as complicated as OSHA’s “discretion” regarding 29 CFR § 1904.
We encourage you to read the OSHA guidelines referenced above in their entirety to determine the changes and ramifications to your business including future reporting and disclosures. As federal government proposal managers with nearly 20 years of experience, Meridian West Consultants stays informed on and researches government changes and mandates that impact our clients and their proposal compliance and quality. Contact us for further clarification and insight on these guidelines and OSHA changes.