California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, has adopted its latest COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) effective May 6, 2022 through December 31, 2022. The ETS applies to all employers, employees, and places of employment, with certain specified exceptions:
- Work locations where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people;
- Employees who are working from home or other location not under the control of the employer (such as a a café or a friend’s home);
- Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 5199).
To comply with the ETS, an employer must develop a written COVID-19 Prevention Program or ensure its elements are included in an existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). Cal/OSHA provides a model written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP), which can be found on the Cal/OSHA website and filled in and customized by the employer: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/ETS.html
The most recent changes to the ETS are meant to keep pace with updated guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and make the ETS more flexible for the future. A summary of the revised ETS and its changes from the previous ETS are as described below:
Face Coverings (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(6)):
- Face covering requirements are now the same for all employees regardless of vaccination status.
- Face coverings are no longer mandatory for unvaccinated workers in all indoor locations.
- Face coverings are mandatory when CDPH requires their use, such as in emergency and homeless shelters; healthcare settings; long term care and senior care facilities; correctional facilities and detention centers; cooling and heating centers.
- Employees can request face coverings from the employer at no cost to the employee and can wear them at work, regardless of vaccination status, without fear of retaliation, as specified in section 3205(c)(5)(J).
Cleaning and disinfecting requirements were deleted. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(7))
Respirators must be provided to all employees who request them and who work indoors or in vehicles with other persons. This now applies to all employees, regardless of vaccination status. Previously, this requirement only applied to unvaccinated employees. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(7)(C)).
COVID-19 testing – Employers must offer testing, at no cost to employees, during paid time to:
- All employees with COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of vaccination status. Previously, this requirement only applied to unvaccinated employees (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(7)(D));
- All employees, regardless of vaccination status, who have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person, except for recently recovered employees;
- All employees in an outbreak or major outbreak, regardless of vaccination status, except for recently recovered employees and employees who were not at work during the relevant period. During an outbreak, all close contacts must either be tested or excluded from the workplace until the return to work requirements for COVID-19 cases in are met. During a major outbreak, all employees must either be tested or excluded until these return to work requirements are met.
- When following CDPH’s Isolation and Quarantine Guidance to keep employees working or return them sooner, if tested.
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(10)):
- Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from the workplace for at least 5 days after start of symptoms or after date of first positive test if no symptoms.
- This applies to all employees, regardless of vaccination status, previous infection, or lack of symptoms.
- Employees can return to work after 5 days if the employee has a negative test, symptoms are improving, and they wear a face mask for an additional 5 days.
- Otherwise, most employees can return after 10 days, if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- An employee may not return to work until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Employees who have close contact with COVID-19 positive person (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(9)):
- Requirements for the exclusion of employees who had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual have been deleted in the latest ETS.
- Employers must follow CDPH guidelines for employees who had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person.
- Exposed employees who are asymptomatic must test within three to five days after their last close contact.
- Persons infected within the prior 90 days do not need to be tested unless symptoms develop.
- Employees must wear face coverings around others for a total of 10 days after exposure.
- If symptoms develop, the employee must be excluded from the workplace pending test results.
- For more information, refer to Cal/OSHA’s summary of CDPH guidance on quarantine and isolation and Cal/OSHA’s fact sheet on quarantine and isolation.
Outbreaks (three or more employees in an exposed group)
- Testing and Exclusion. Employees who had close contacts must test negative or be excluded from the workplace until the return to work requirements for COVID-19 cases in are met. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205.1(b)(2)(C))
- Partitions/barriers. Employers no longer need to use barriers or partitions to reduce COVID-19 transmission in outbreaks. These requirements have been deleted. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205.1(d)(3))
- There are no physical distancing requirements in the revised ETS except during an outbreak, major outbreak, or other circumstances in which an employer determines that physical distancing is necessary in the workplace to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
For more information, visit the Cal/OSHA website: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/