The Cal/OSHA Standards Board is set to vote on new emergency regulations that will impose strict rules on employers to implement safeguards in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the workplace.
The board on Nov. 19 will vote on the sweeping proposal that extends the reach of protections to employer-provided housing and transportation, as well as imposing new reporting requirements on employers who have workers that contract the coronavirus.
The board is expected to approve the new regulations and they could take effect Nov. 30. Employers will therefore need to ramp up quickly to comply with the new rules.
Here are the highlights of the emergency regulations:
- Physical distancing and mask-wearing are required unless it is not possible to wear masks on the job. If physical distancing is not possible in the workplace, the employer would have to explain why not.
- Employers must provide face coverings and ensure they are worn by employees over the nose and mouth.
- At fixed work locations where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing, the employer shall install cleanable partitions that effectively reduce aerosol transmission between employees.
- Employers must implement cleaning and disinfecting procedures for frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, bathroom surfaces, and steering wheels.
- Employers will be required to have a written COVID-19 prevention program. Cal/OSHA will allow the program to be incorporated into an organization’s existing injury and illness prevention plan or be stand-alone.
- Employers must identify and evaluate COVID-19 hazards with participation from employees, and then correct those hazards.
- Employers must investigate coronavirus cases among their employees. If they discover one of their staff has contracted COVID-19, they will be required to notify all employees or their authorized representatives, independent contractors, or employees at a worksite who might have been exposed, within one day. Workers who may have been exposed must be offered COVID-19 testing at no cost.
- Employers must report coronavirus cases in their workplaces to local health authorities.
- Employers must maintain medical records related to COVID-19 and provide those records to the local health department, the California Department of Public Health, Cal/OSHA, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (upon request).
- Employers must implement a system of record-keeping to track all COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
- Employees with COVID-19 symptoms may not return to work until at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, and not until after 24 hours have passed since the employee had a fever of 100.4 or higher and after all symptoms have passed.
There are even rules for disinfecting and cleaning employee housing and transportation if the company provides them.
The regs also include provisions that are beyond the scope of workplace safety regulations, such as requiring employers to maintain employees’ earnings, seniority and benefits when they are off work because of COVID-19.
You can find the full proposed emergency regulation here.
With this regulation expected to be approved, California employers may only have until Nov. 30 until the new rules take effect. During that time, companies should:
- Prepare for new record-keeping requirements,
- Start writing their COVID-19 prevention programs,
- Consider implementing testing protocols as per the regulations, and
- Prepare policies and procedures for notifying affected staff and others of possible COVID-19 exposure.