Immediate Action Required for California Employers: Cal/OSHA Adopts Emergency COVID-19 Safety Standards for California Employers

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As of November 20, 2020, Cal/OSHA adopted temporary standards or regulations (effective immediately for 180 days unless further extended) that apply to most employees and workplaces in California related to COVID-19.

Who is covered by these new emergency regulations?

All employees in all places of employment including but not limited to association employees with the following exceptions:

  • Places of employment that only have one employee who does not have contact with other persons;
  • Employees that are solely working from home; and
  • Employees covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard (which does not apply to association employees and primarily applies to health care workers).

Under the new regulations, association employers, unless one of the exceptions above applies, must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan that addresses the following:

  • System for communicating information to employees about COVID-19 prevention procedures, testing, symptoms and illnesses, including a system for employees to report exposures without fear of retaliation.
  • Identification and evaluation of hazards – screening employees for symptoms, identifying workplace conditions and practices that could result in potential exposure.
  • Investigating and responding to cases in the workplace – responding immediately to potential exposures by following steps to determine who may have been exposed, providing notice within one business day about potential exposures, and offering testing to workers who may have been exposed.
  • Correcting COVID-19 hazards – including correcting unsafe conditions and work practices as well as providing effective training and instruction.
  • Physical distancing – implementing procedures to ensure workers stay at least six feet apart from other people if possible.
  • Face coverings – providing face coverings and ensuring they are worn.
  • Adopting site-specific strategies such as changes to the workplace and work schedules and providing personal protective equipment to reduce exposure to the virus.
  • Recording requirements for positive COVID-19 cases and making the COVID-19 Prevention Plan accessible to employees and employee representatives.
  • Removal of COVID-19 exposed workers and COVID-19 positive workers from the workplace with measures to protect pay and benefits.
  • Criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19.
  • Requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks (three or more cases in a workplace in a 14-day period) and major outbreaks (20 or more cases within a 30-day period).
  • Specific requirements for infection prevention in employer-provided housing and transportation to and from work.

Cal/OSHA has posted FAQs and a one-page fact sheet on the regulations, as well as a model COVID-19 prevention program. Employers are invited to participate in training webinars held by Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services branch.

If you have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs, you can also call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424 or contact our office for further assistance.


Keywords: COVID-19, Coronavirus