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Immediately Effective Employer Requirements to Prevent COVID-19 in the Workplace

Immediately Effective Employer Requirements to Prevent COVID-19 in the Workplace

News alert, employers! In full disclosure, this is going to feel like a lot of information and may be a bit overwhelming. I will try to keep it concise and strictly informational without getting in the weeds too much. As always, I am here to answer any questions you might have and help support with meeting these new requirements, including drafting a COVID prevention program. 

On November 30, 2020, the California Office of Administrative Law approved Cal/OSHA’s emergency ruleseffective immediately.The new rules amend the state’s current general industry safety orders by adding the below new sections. It’s time to revisit any existing COVID-19 policies and procedures you might have to ensure they align with these new requirements.  

Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan:

Applies to all employees and places of employment except those with one employee and no contact with others, employees working from home, and employees covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (such as healthcare facilities, nursing homes, paramedics and emergency responders):

    • Requires employers to establish and implement a written COVID-19 Prevention Program (may be integrated into your Injury and Illness Program) and the program must include:
      • System for communicating with employees about COVID-19 exposures, accommodations, and testing;
      • Reporting and recordkeeping;
      • Exclusion of COVID-19 cases from the workplace;
      • Identification of COVID-19 hazards;
      • Investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases;
      • Correction of COVID-19 hazards;
      • Employee training and instruction;
      • Physical distancing and face covering requirements;
      • Other engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE;
      • Return to work criteria

*Note return to work criteria = generally, employees may not require to work until:

  • At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications;
  • COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
  • At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.

Employers cannot require a negative test in order to return to work.

Response to multiple COVID-19 Infections and Outbreaks:

    • An “outbreak” is defined as when there are three or more COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 14-day period. 
    • Employers must:
      • Provide free COVID-19 testing for employees who were present at the workplace during an outbreak;
      • Notify the local health department within 48 hours of an outbreak.
      • Exclude COVID-19 cases from the workplace;
      • COVID-19 investigation, review, documentation, and hazard correction

Major COVID-19 Outbreaks:

  • When there are 20 or more COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 30-day period. 
  • Employers must:
    • Provide free, twice a week COVID-19 testing for employees who were present at the exposed workplace;
    • Notify the local health department within 48 hours of an outbreak;
    • Investigate workplace COVID-19 illness; 
    • COVID-19 hazard correction; 

COVID-19 Prevention in Employer-Provided Housing: There are specific requirements applicable to employer-provided housing which is employer-provided living quarters, dwelling, boardinghouse, tent, bunkhouse, maintenance-of-way car, mobile home, manufactured home, recreational vehicle, travel trailer, other housing accommodations, and labor camps. See DIR FAQs for more information.

COVID-19 Prevention in Employer-Provided Transportation to and from Work: There are also specific requirements for employer-provided motor vehicle transportation to and from work, which is any transportation of an employee, during the course and scope of employment, provided, arranged for, or secured by an employer including ride-share vans or shuttle vehicles, car-pools, and private charter buses, regardless of the travel distance or duration involved. See DIR FAQs for more information.

Employers must continue pay and benefits for employees excluded from work due to COVID-19

For employees who are excluded from work because they are COVID-19 positive or have been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, and who are otherwise able and available to work, employers must continue and maintain their earnings, seniority, and all other employee rights, and benefits, including their right to their former job status, as if they were not removed from their job. Employers may use employer-provided employee sick leave benefits for this purpose and consider benefit payments from public sources in determining how to maintain earnings, rights, and benefits, where permitted by law and when not covered by workers’ compensation. 

This does not apply if:

  • The employee is unable to work for reasons other than protecting persons at the workplace from possible COVID-19 transmission.
  • The employer can demonstrate that the COVID-19 exposure is not work related. Seek legal guidance before making this determination.

You may visit the DIR website where Cal/OSHA posted FAQs, a fact sheet, a model COVID-19 prevention program, and training webinars on these new emergency rules.