Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary COVID-19 Standard

The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Occupation Safety and Health Standards Board has adopted emergency temporary standards addressing a variety of issues related to COVID-19 in the workplace. NECA opposed these proposed regulations, as we saw them as potentially confusing to contractors, as much of what the new standard requires is duplicative of recently enacted state law and issued guidance.

For example, the emergency standard contains notification requirements similar to those in AB-685, California’s COVID-19 notice and reporting requirement law that took effect January 1, 2021. While both AB-685 and the standards target prompt notification, there are differences in language, definitions and terminology between AB-685 and the new Cal/OSHA standard, which raise uncertainty about when the notice requirements are triggered and to whom notice should be given under each rule.

The COVID-19 Temporary Standards apply to most workers in California not covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard. Under the new regulations, employers must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan that addresses the following:

  • A 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 to 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.
  • Positive COVID-19 case and illness recording requirements 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.

Contractors will need to immediately take steps to adhere to these new requirements. While much of the emergency temporary standards reflect state law or previous Cal/OSHA voluntary guidance that many contractors are already following, there are many specific requirements that are new and significant. Contractors should consult with their safety, hygiene, and legal advisors on developing a written COVID-19 Prevention Program as well as developing or amending their policies to account for the new requirements.

In an effort to ensure you have all related and referenced information, please find attached the following: