California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) new emergency regulation applies to most workers in California and requires employers to develop and implement a comprehensive written COVID-19 Prevention Program that addresses:
- A system for communicating COVID-19 information;
- Identification and evaluation of COVID-19 hazards;
- Investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases in the workplace;
- Correction of COVID-19 hazards;
- Training and instruction;
- Physical distancing;
- Face coverings;
- Other engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment;
- Reporting, recordkeeping and access;
- Exclusion of COVID-19 cases; and
- Return-to-work criteria.
For each of the above elements, the requirements are detailed and complex, as well as may conflict with certain County requirements. The requirements also include significant notification, reporting, testing and safety requirements. For example, employers must:
- Investigate any potential COVID-19 exposures in the workplace;
- Notify potentially exposed employees within one business day of the exposure; and
- Offer free COVID-19 testing to potentially exposed employees.
Employers must also report COVID-19 cases to their local public health departments within 48 hours when an “outbreak” occurs at the workplace, which is defined as three or more cases within two weeks for employers of less than 100. Additionally, employers must exclude exposed employees from the workplace for 14 days and “maintain the employee’s earnings, seniority, and all other rights and benefits” while they are out.
The new rules raised a host of questions as has most of the COVID related rushed legislation. In response, Cal/OSHA released several guidance documents to help employers navigate the new standard — a FAQ page, a brief fact sheet and a model written COVID-19 Prevention Program.
Since the FAQs will be updated and revised on an ongoing basis it is important to check them regularly. Cal/OSHA is also developing training on the new standard that will be available in a webinar format. Employers should review the new guidance carefully and continue to consult with legal counsel on the development of their written COVID-19 Prevention Program. Cal/OSHA’s model program may provide some employers with a starting point, but employers should work with legal counsel on tailoring a program for their specific industries and worksites.
For questions, please contact Christine H. Long, Partner and Department Chair, Berliner Cohen LLP (408) 286-5800 or email@example.com.