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Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard - December 2021 Update

In June 2021, Cal/OSHA passed the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 Protection. This standard brought new regulations to non-medically related industries not already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard (ATD).  This standard was set to expire on January 14, 2022, but the Cal/OSHA standards board re-adopted the ETS with a few changes on December 16 this month. The approved version can be found HERE.  

The new revisions will now go into effect on January 14, 2022 and are set to expire in April, 2022. Cal/OSHA continues to work on a permanent version of the ETS and they have posted a draft version of that language HERE.  We expect to see the Standards Board discuss the draft permanent version sometime in early 2022 before the readopted standard expires. The Standards board calendar can be found HERE.  

On December 15th the State of California issued a state-wide universal indoor masking order that expires on January 15th. This essentially means all public indoor spaces require people to be masked regardless of vaccination status.  The re-adopted ETS is silent on the new California CDPH mandate and the State mandate points employers back to the Cal/OSHA ETS and/ or the Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard (ATD) regarding face covering requirements. However, in the Q&A section of the CDPH’s order they indicate “the guidance applies to all workplaces, regardless of whether they serve the public, or are open to the public.” Please check out the CDPH order and Q&A page for more details.   

There are a few notable changes to the re-adopted version of the Cal/OSHA ETS summarized below:  

  • New face covering requirements: The new version of the ETS allows for respirators, procedure masks and surgical masks but it has added a “light” test to other types of face coverings. The standard now requires two layers of material that does not allow light to pass through for all coverings. 
  • After a close contact event, the old ETS required offering COVID-19 tests to non-vaccinated employees. The new revision now requires testing to be provided to all close contact employees regardless of vaccination status.   
  • Previously, vaccinated employees were not required to quarantine from the workplace after having a close contact. This is still true, but the standard has added a requirement for vaccinated employees who have had a close contact to wear a mask and keep a six-foot distance from other employees for 14 days after the close contact or be excluded from the workplace. 
  • If the workplace has an “outbreak” the previous standard required non-vaccinated employees to offer testing. The new version now requires all employees regardless of vaccination status to be offered testing.   

Scott Rhymes

About the author

Scott Rhymes

Vice President - Director of Risk Control

As Newfront's Senior Risk Control Consultant, Scott provides risk control and safety consulting services, crafting and designing programs to lower the total cost of risk for Newfront's clients. Focusing on the overall safety systems and culture, Scott partners with clients to increase safety awareness and reduce occupational exposures. Scott is a regular guest speaker at local industry group meetings and university certificate programs. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.


The information provided is of a general nature and an educational resource. It is not intended to provide advice or address the situation of any particular individual or entity. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. Newfront shall have no liability for the information provided. While care has been taken to produce this document, Newfront does not warrant, represent or guarantee the completeness, accuracy, adequacy, or fitness with respect to the information contained in this document. The information provided does not reflect new circumstances, or additional regulatory and legal changes. The issues addressed may have legal, financial, and health implications, and we recommend you speak to your legal, financial, and health advisors before acting on any of the information provided.

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