A new Assembly bill was passed yesterday on September 17, 2020, by Governor Gavin Newsom. AB 685 which is effective on January 1, 2021, makes additions to employer required notifications regarding COVID -19, modifies Cal-OSHA serious violation notification requirements, and clarifies Cal-OSHA’s ability to act on COVID -19 imminent hazard exposures. Below is a brief summary of the new bill. A full copy of the text can be located at Leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
The new bill requires employers to make the following four new notices within:
- Employers must make a notice to employees and sub-contractors about any potential exposure from a qualifying individual in the workplace. The bill defines a “qualifying individual” as a person who has one of the following:
- Employers are also required to make the same notice to any affected bargaining units
- For the same notified employees, subcontractors, and bargaining units, a notice must be made providing information on COVID-19 related benefits and options.
- The bill also requires the employer to create a safety plan based on the Centers for Disease Control guidelines in response to the potential COVID-19 exposure. The CDC has a publication called COVID-19 Employer Playbook which has guidelines for creating a safety plan.
- A laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19
- A positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider
- A COVID-19 related order to isolate provided by a public health official
- Died due to COVID-19
Additionally, within 48 hours, employers now must notify their local public health department of any “outbreak”. The bill defines an “outbreak” as three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a two-week period among employees who live in different households. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is now required to collect reporting statistics from the local public health departments and post these statistics on their public website. This data will not include information about the employers or the employees, only statistics by industry. The new bill included two exemptions for the Public Health Reporting requirement for health facilities and for employees whose normal job is conducting COVID-19 screening or testing or providing care for individuals known or suspected of having COVID-19. However, if another employee in that same workplace becomes a qualifying individual the employer would still need to make the required notifications.
AB 685 clarifies Cal-OSHA’s ability to prohibit entry into workplaces or certain areas of employer workplaces if there is an imminent threat of COVID-19 infection. Cal-OSHA previously had the ability to prohibit entry into workplaces due to imminent hazards but this bill clarifies that ability in regards to COVID-19. The bill also removes a current notification requirement for Cal-OSHA concerning serious violations pertaining to COVID-19. Cal-OSHA currently is required to provide a 15-day notice of their intent to issue a Serious violation effectively providing employers the ability to provide additional information and clarification before issuance of a violation. AB 685 removes this requirement for COVID-19 related Serious violations and allows Cal-OSHA to issue the violation immediately.
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