On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved emergency temporary COVID-19 standards (“emergency standards”) for health and safety in the workplace. The Office of Administrative Law now has 10 days to review before it adopts the emergency rules as a final regulation and therefore enforceable by Cal-OSHA.

Who do the Emergency Standards Apply to?

The standards apply to all employers with a California worksite.

What do the COVID-19 Emergency Standards Require?

The emergency standards require employers to prepare, implement and maintain a written COVID-19 prevention program that meets a number of specific elements outlined in the emergency rule. The following summarizes key elements:

  • System of communicating – employers should have a system for communicating to employees processes and procedures relating to reporting COVID-19 cases and exposures, testing, hazards, and requests for accommodations for high-risk employees;
  • Identification and evaluation of COVID-19 hazards – employers must have a process for identifying hazards which include but are not limited to: health screenings, response to confirmed cases, inspections and ventilation;
  • Investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases in the workplace – employers must have an effective procedure to investigate COVID-19 cases in the workplace. This includes procedures for verifying COVID-19 case status, receiving information regarding COVID-19 test results and onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and identifying and recording COVID-19 cases;
  • Correction of COVID-19 hazards – employers must implement effective policies and/or procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, work practices, policies and procedures in a timely manner based on the severity of the hazard;
  • Training and instruction – employers must provide training on policies related to COVID-19 and the workplace including: the employer’s COVID-19 prevent program; social distancing, sanitation and mask protocols; resources and benefits for infected employees; and information on COVID-19 transmission;
  • Physical distancing – employers must implement procedures to ensure employees are separated from others by at least six feet when possible. Methods of physical distancing include: telework or other remote work arrangements; reducing the number of persons in an area at one time, including visitors; and adjusted work processes or procedures;
  • Face coverings – employers must provide face coverings and ensure they are worn properly;
  • Reporting, recordkeeping and access – employers must keep records and report information about COVID-19 cases at the workplace to the local health department whenever required by law, and provide any related information requested by the local health department.
  • Return to work criteria – the emergency rules outline criteria that must be met before an individual with COVID-19 returns to work.
  • Exclusion of COVID-19 Cases – employers must be sure to keep COVID-19 cases from the workplace until the return to work criteria is met while maintaining earnings, seniority and benefits.

Employers are also required to implement the certain protocols if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace of three (3) or more cases within a 14-day period until there are no new cases for a 14-day period and are subject to additional protocols for a “major outbreak” of 20 or more COVID-19 cases within a 30-day period.

Employer Considerations

Now more than ever, employers need to be careful to monitor and protect against the potential of COVID-19 at the workplace. The California requirements demonstrate the potential for employers to have more legal exposure, which is why we recommend having clear return to work policies and COVID-19 tracking mechanisms in place. The tracking and resource capability of Sequoia’s Return to Work Center can provide a streamlined solution to address these new challenges and help your business more confidently stay compliant. Please reach out to our Sequoia Client Service team to learn more about how Return to Work Center can assist you.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2020 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Lizet Ramirez – Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.