What’s Next With Cal/OSHA And COVID-19 Standards?

Jackson Lewis P.C.

For now, California employers are beholden to state and local COVID-19 requirements as well as Cal/OSHA’s infamous COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). The ETS are set to expire on January 14, 2022. However, Cal/OSHA has recently released a draft of a semi-permanent standard for COVID-19.

The current proposal would create a COVID-19 standard that would be subject to renewal or expiration after two years. Here are the key differences between the proposed standard and the current ETS.

COVID-19 Included in IIPP

Instead of requiring a separate COVID-19 Prevention Program, employers would address COVID-19 through their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). Under the proposed standard, employers would still be required to assess COVID-19 hazards in the workplace and train employees about appropriate safety practices.

Testing Requirements

The proposed standards would adopt a more stringent testing requirement that would mandate employers provide testing to all employees with a close contact with a positive person, regardless of vaccination status. Only employees who have recently recovered from COVID-19 and are asymptomatic would be exempt from such testing requirements.

Face Coverings

After the criticism that Cal/OSHA faced due to being out of step with state requirements for face coverings, the proposed standard would set California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance as the minimum standard. Unvaccinated employees would still need to wear face coverings indoors or in vehicles.

No More Exclusion Pay

The proposed semi-permanent standard would eliminate the requirement of exclusion pay for employees who are excluded from the worksite to quarantine. Excluded employees would still need to be provided information on applicable benefits such as sick leave.

Limitation on Respirator Requirement

The current ETS requires that employers provide respirators to employees who are not fully vaccinated upon request. In the proposed standard, respirators would only need to be provided to employees who had been identified by a health care professional as being at increased risk of severe illness.

Procedures for Outbreaks

During an outbreak in the workplace, all employees would be required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status. And employers would need to provide respirators during major outbreaks to all employees. The testing exemption for fully vaccinated employees during outbreaks would also be removed.

The Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee on COVID-19 is convening on September 23rd to discuss the proposed standard in more depth. The proposed standard would still have several administrative hoops to clear before it could replace the ETS.

Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor changes in COVID-19 guidance and regulations in the workplace. 

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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