Late on November 19, the six member Cal-OSHA standards Board unanimously approved the new emergency standard requiring California employers to put into place stronger protections against COVID-19 transmission. The new requirements will apply to all California employers except those working from home, places of employment with one employee who does not have contact with other people and employees covered by Cal-OSHA section 5199 (Aerosol Transmissible Diseases). The rule is now progressing to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for final approval. This rule makes California the third state to implement emergency workplace rules with Virginia and Oregon going into effect in July and November. The new rule could take effect within a few weeks pending the review and comment period.
The emergency rule will be active for 180 days once effective. Cal-OSHA will be reviewing the rule during that period to consider making the standard permanent for future pandemics. Among other new items, the new rule included information from the latest research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which confirms that airborne transmission of the virus can occur. The rule requires employers to develop a written COVID-19 Prevention Program. The written program can be included in your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) or be a separate program.
Below is a list of the specific items the written program needs to address:
- System for communicating with employees about COVID-19 and for employees to make reports to their employer without fear of reprisal
- Identification and evaluation of COVID hazards in the workplace
- Investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases including the requirement to offer COVID-19 testing to all “exposed” employees at no cost
- Correction of COVID-19 hazards
- Training and instruction of employees
- Physical distancing requirements
- Face coverings requirements
- Engineering, administrative and personal protective equipment controls
- Record keeping, reporting and access
- Exclusion from the workplace for COVID-19 cases and preservation of earnings seniority and benefits
- Return to work criteria
- Multiple COVID -19 infections and outbreaks
- Major COVID-19 outbreaks
- Employer provided housing
- Employer provided transportation
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