On December 1, 2020, the six-member board overseeing California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal-OSHA”) approved emergency COVID-19 safety regulations governing most employers and places of employment in California, with three exceptions: (1) places of employment with one employee who does not have contact with other persons; (2) employees working from home; and (3) employees already covered by the aerosol transmissible disease standard at 8 CCR §5199. These regulations are effective immediately and provide rigorous standards to protect workers and clarify what employers must do to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks.
What Must Employers Do?
Employers are required to provide free COVID-19 testing to all employees if there is a workplace outbreak. An outbreak is defined as 3 or more COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 14-day period.
Protective Equipment/Compliance Plan
Employers are required to provided free masks/face coverings and personal protective equipment to all workers. The masks must be a tightly woven fabric or non-woven material with no visible holes or openings, and employers must ensure that they are worn by the employee over the nose and mouth when indoors, when outdoors, and less than 6 feet away from another person, and where required by orders from the CDPH or local health department. Under these regulations, face shields are not a replacement for masks/face coverings but can be worn in conjunction with the face covering for additional protection.
Employers also need to maintain 6 feet of social distancing between employees. If 6 feet of distancing is not possible, the employer must install cleanable solid partitions that effectively reduce aerosol transmission between the employee and other persons.
Employers shall also implement cleaning and disinfecting procedures, which require:
- Identifying and regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, bathroom surfaces, and steering wheels.
- Prohibiting the sharing of personal protective equipment and to the extent possible, any items that employees come in regular physical contact with such as phones, headsets, desks, keyboards, writing materials, instruments, and tools. If it is not feasible to prevent sharing, employers shall minimize the sharing and must disinfect the items and equipment between uses by different people. Employers shall minimize the sharing of vehicles to the extent possible, and high touch points (steering wheels, door handles, seatbelt buckles, armrests, shifter, etc.) shall be disinfected between users.
- Cleaning and disinfection of areas, materials, and equipment used by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.
Employers must also identify a “competent employer representative to establish, implement, and maintain an effective written compliance action plan to protect employees” and to “share the plan with employees and representatives.” The compliance plan must identify specific workplace hazards that may expose employees to COVID-19 and “adopt and implement feasible preventive measures to eliminate or minimize transmission risks.”
Employers are now required to contact the local health department immediately but no longer than 48 hours after learning of three or more COVID-19 cases to obtain guidance on preventing the further spread of COVID-19 within their workplace.
With these safety regulations taking immediate effect, employers should be diligent about reviewing their compliance plans and ensuring they provide the above protections to their employees.
The full text of the regulations can be read here.