California has enacted new and detailed emergency safety and health regulations affecting virtually anyone who runs a business, school or other enterprise in the Golden State. California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) has issued emergency temporary standards for COVID-19 to clarify employer obligations during the pandemic and to prevent outbreaks. The new standards took effect November 30, 2020, and will remain in effect until May 30, 2021, subject to extension or adoption as a permanent regulation.
All California employers and employees are covered by the new regulations with limited exceptions. The standards make exceptions for workplaces with only a single employee who has no contact with others, employees who are working remotely and employees covered by the aerosol transmissible diseases standard (applicable to healthcare and certain laboratory environments).
The standards expressly require employers to take action previously addressed in industry guidance enacted by the state, but go well beyond that guidance. The new regulations mandate that employers create and implement a written COVID Prevention Program, conduct employee training, implement cleaning and disinfecting procedures, physically distance employees, provide masks and ensure their use, evaluate the need for additional personal protective equipment (PPE), and provide specifics as to what each requirement must address. The regulations further reflect building ventilation standards and other engineering and administrative controls. The details in the standards provide much-needed clarity for employers on what is required by law to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The standards require employers to take specific actions upon learning of positive cases of COVID-19 in the workplace. The regulations detail investigations, notifications to employees and government officials, and for the first time, mandate employer-provided testing for all employees following an outbreak. They also impose COVID-19 obligations on employers who provide housing to employees or transportation to and from work.