Late last week, Cal-OSHA issued emergency workplace regulations applicable to all California employers. The standards are set to take effect as soon as Monday, November 30, although the agency may allow for a compliance holiday to give businesses time to become compliant. While the new COVID regulations from Cal-OSHA contain many of the guidelines that business have had to follow under the state’s reopening guidelines, there are new requirements that employers must take action to comply with, including:
Adopting a written COVID prevention plan
Most employers adopted such plans early on in the pandemic, but now is the time to review and update your plan to make sure you have all of the required elements.
Required Physical Distancing
Required physical distancing of six feet throughout the workplace (except for momentary interaction) and wearing of masks (face shield are not sufficient) in all areas other than individual offices. If physical distancing is not possible, employers must institute physical barriers, or possibly evaluate whether respirators must be provided to employees.
Tracking and Recording of All COVID Cases
Tracking and recording of all COVID cases in the workplace, including last day at workplace and date of positive test, and reporting to local public health agencies if an outbreak (three or more positive cases in a 14 day period) occurs. Any illness that can be traced to workplace exposure and results in hospitalization or death must be reported to Cal-OSHA within 24 hours, as with any other serious workplace injury.
Notification to Employees of COVID Exposure
Notification to employees who may have been exposed to a COVID positive individual in the workplace within one day. The notice does not have to be writing (unlike the notice required under AB 685 which goes into effect January 1), and should not reveal the identity of the infected individual.
Free Testing for Employees
If there is a positive case, the employer must offer free testing during work hours to employees who were exposed (had close contact with the infected person) at the workplace. If there is an outbreak, the employer must offer free testing to all employees at the workplace (immediately and a second test in seven days). A negative test will not affect the duty to quarantine.
Paying Affected Employees
If it is established that exposure or infection occurred at work, the employer must pay affected employees for the period they are required to quarantine. This obligation would presumably run concurrently with the pay under the FFCRA, but unlike FFCRA or California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, there is no cap of 80 hours on the amount of paid leave required.
There are many other nuances in the emergency regulations that will impact how COVID cases are handled in the workplace. If you have questions regarding these new COVID Regulations from Cal-OSHA or need assistance with compliance, we have resources and further guidance available.