The Department of Industrial Relations’ Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) has unanimously adopted new emergency temporary regulations imposing COVID-related safety standards and requirements at the workplace. The Office of Administrative Law is expected to approve these new regulations by November 30, 2020 and be effective immediately upon approval. This does not give employers much time to implement the various policies and procedures to abide by these new and complicated regulations.
The new regulation will be binding and enforceable against most employers and will require employers to write and implement a COVID-19 prevention program. However, the new regulations will not apply to employers whose employees who work from home, employers with only one employee who works alone, and employees covered by section 5199.
Importantly, the prevention program must include the following elements:
- System for communicating information to employees about COVID-19 prevention procedures, testing, symptoms, and illnesses, including a system for employees to report exposures without fear of retaliation.
- Identification and evaluation of hazards – screening employees for symptoms, identifying workplace conditions and practices that could result in potential exposure.
- Investigating and responding to cases in the workplace – responding immediately to potential exposures by following steps to determine who may have been exposed, providing notice within one business day about potential exposures, and offering testing to workers who may have been exposed.
- Correcting COVID-19 hazards – including correcting unsafe conditions and work practices as well as providing effective training and instruction.
- Physical distancing – implementing procedures to ensure workers stay at least six feet apart from other people if possible.
- Face coverings – providing face coverings and ensuring they are worn.
- Adopting site-specific strategies such as changes to the workplace and work schedules and providing personal protective equipment to reduce exposure to the virus.
- Positive COVID-19 case and illness recording requirements and making the COVID-19 Prevention Plan accessible to employees and employee representatives.
- Removal of COVID-19 exposed workers and COVID-19 positive workers from the workplace with measures to protect pay and benefits.
- Criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19.
- Requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks (three or more cases in a workplace in a 14-day period) and major outbreaks (20 or more cases within a 30-day period).
- Specific requirements for infection prevention in employer-provided housing and transportation to and from work.
Detailed regulations regarding these requirements can be found here.
While Cal/OSHA has indicated it would publish guidance and FAQs soon, with the impending deadline employers should immediately start drafting a compliant prevention program. There are requirements that may be new to most employers. As such, even those employers that have implemented COVID-19 prevention plans must review the regulations to make sure their plans abide by the new requirements.