Flash Report: Cal/OSHA Rushes Thru Emergency COVID Regs

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has published an extensive, 21-page emergency regulation regarding the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces. It will drastically affect nearly every employer in California.

But the proposal, which the board will vote on November 19th, goes beyond workplaces to include employer-provided housing and transportation. It has new ominous reporting requirements. Employers have only a few days to comment.

The proposal comes in response to a request by Worksafe which, on its website uses “safety, health and justice for workers” as at tagline, and plaintiff’s lawyers. There are sure to be plenty of stakeholder comments at next week’s meeting. With the advent and expected delivery of a vaccine by the Trump administration, there are many questions about the need for this regulation.

One of the many important outstanding questions is how this regulation – if this regulation — is in conflict with the recently signed AB 685 and, if not, how they might work together.

If, as expected, it is approved by the Standards Board, it will go to the Office of Administrative Law and is projected to become effective by the end of November.

According to sources, changes are unlikely to be made no matter what the comments are from the business community.

Note: The Board has provided only a couple of days for comments. Our sister publication Cal-OSHA Reporter is making the full proposed reg available for download. Click here to get the proposal.

Here are the proposed emergency regulation’s main elements:

  • Employers will be required to have a written COVID Prevention Program, which can be incorporated into the IIPP or be stand-alone;
  • Employers must identify, evaluate and correct COVID hazards, the first two with the participation of employees and their authorized representatives;
  • Employers must investigate and “respond effectively” to COVID cases and notify employees who might have been exposed within one day. Employees who may have been exposed must be offered COVID testing at no cost;
  • Employers must report COVID cases in their workplaces to local health authorities;
  • Physical distancing and mask-wearing are required unless it is not possible in the former. But the burden is on the employer to demonstrate it isn’t possible. There are also exceptions for masks;
  • Return-to-work provisions are included for employee COVID cases;
  • There are specific and more stringent requirements for multiple COVID infections and outbreaks in the workplace;
  • The proposal also includes COVID prevention procedures in employer-provided housing, such as labor camps, and employer-provided transportation to and from work.

Click here to see the entire proposal. You can comment to the board at OSHSB@dir.ca.gov.