The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has revised emergency rules for protecting workers from COVID-19. The emergency rules became effective on May 6, 2022 and will remain in effect through December 31, 2022.
By way of background, Cal/OSHA first adopted COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards (ETS) in late 2020. Under the Cal/OSHA ETS, most employers must establish, implement, and maintain an effective, written COVID-19 Prevention Program that contains specified elements. Cal/OSHA has now revised the ETS three times.
Here’s are some of the key changes in the third revision:
- Face Coverings: Face coverings are no longer required for unvaccinated employees in all indoor locations. Under the amended ETS, however, face coverings are mandatory when California Department of Public Health Guidance (CPDH) requires their use. Employers must now review and monitor CPDH Guidance for the Use of Face Masks to learn when face coverings are required.
Note: Employees are still entitled to request face coverings from their employer at no cost to the employee and can wear them at work, regardless of vaccination status.
- Respirators: Employers must provide respirators to employees who request them and work indoors for voluntary use regardless of vaccination status. Previously, this requirement only applied to unvaccinated employees.
- Cleaning and Disinfecting: The cleaning and disinfecting requirements have been deleted.
- Testing: Employers are now required to make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during paid time to employees with COVID-19 symptoms regardless of vaccination status and regardless of whether there is a known exposure. Previously, this applied to unvaccinated employees only. The definition of an acceptable COVID-19 test was also changed with respect to self-administered and self-read tests. A video or observation of the entire test process is no longer necessary for such tests--just a date/timestamped photo of the test result will now be sufficient.
- Exclusion: The detailed prescriptive requirements for exclusion of employees after close contact have been deleted. Instead, employers must review CPDH guidelines for individuals who had close contact and implement quarantine and other measures in the workplace to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The requirements for employees who test positive for COVID-19 have been updated to reflect the most recent CDPH isolation and quarantine guidelines. Regardless of vaccination status, positive employees can return to work after 5 days if the employee has a negative test, symptoms are improving, and they wear a face covering at work for an additional 5 days. Otherwise, most employees can return after 10 days.
- Definitions: “Close contact” and “infectious period” are now defined so that their meaning will change if CDPH changes its definition of the term in a regulation or order.
- Read the revised Cal/OSHA ETS and FAQ in full.
- Ensure your written COVID-19 Prevention Program complies.
Note: Cal/OSHA is expected to publish an updated model COVID-19 Prevention Program soon, which will be available here.