California Issues Guidance for Employers on Monkeypox

CDF Labor Law LLP
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There have been over 4,500 monkeypox (MPX) cases in California so far this year. Cal/OSHA recently provided guidance on MPX to ensure California employees are best protected from the disease. The guidance applies to all workplaces covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard (Title 8 Code of Regulations Section 5199) which includes health care facilities, public health services, police, medical transport, and more. Cal/OSHA’s guidance can be found here.

The guidance notes that MPX is primarily spread by “close or direct contact but can also become airborne.” The regulations require covered California employers to:

  1. Implement a written program to prevent or reduce the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases specific to the workplace and operations.
  2. Provide and ensure the use of respiratory protection.
  3. Ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided and used by employees exposed to persons with or suspected to have MPX, or to linens or surfaces that may contain the virus.
  4. Implement written procedures for exposure incidents.
  5. Report the exposure to the local health officer.
  6. Remove the employee from the workplace if the PHLCP or local health officer recommends precautionary removal. Employers must maintain the employee’s pay, rights, benefits, etc. during precautionary removal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared MPX a public health emergency of international concern in July. However, the WHO and CDC did not declare MPX as a workplace hazard, meaning there are currently no specific federal rules addressing MPX in the workplace.

Employers should keep in mind that there are different requirements for referring employers, laboratories, and all other employers.

The preamble to the guidance states that employers not covered by Section 5199 must protect their employees under their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPP) required under Title 8 Section 3203, and sanitation requirements set forth under Section 3362. The guidance is silent on specific steps non-ATD employers must take but nonetheless signals that Cal/OSHA will consider MPX a workplace hazard.

Therefore, CDF recommends that all California employers should a) develop some protocols to address what to do if there is an MPX case in their workplace; and b) take any reported MPX case in the workplace seriously and promptly contact a workplace safety specialist. Employers subject to the ATD standard should ensure compliance with the requirement to maintain an employee’s pay and rights during removal for MPX-exposure. Employers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424 or their local Cal/OSHA Consultation Office or email InfoCons@dir.ca.gov. If you want to read more about monkeypox in the workplace, check out last month’s post here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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