California Adopts Revised COVID-19 Emergency Standards

Posted on 6/23/2021 by Lauren Scott

To help employers re-open businesses safely and protect employees, Lion News staff tracks standards for COVID-19 preparedness, workplace controls, and employee training on a state-by-state basis.

To learn more, view our list of states with COVID-19 programs in place.

[UPDATE 06/23/21] California's revised rule took effect on June 17. These new regulations more closely align to CDC's most recent recommendations on COVID-19 workplace safety. Learn more here.

[UPDATE 06/10/21] During a special meeting on June 9, Cal/OSHA walked back it's Emergency Temporary Standards, voting to rescind the latest COVID-19 workplace safety rule. At issue were mask requirements, which Cal/OSHA is expected to review at its next meeting on June 17. The agency is expected to adopt a revised Emegency Temporary Standard by the end of the month.

[UPDATE 06/05/21] On June 3, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to adopt revised Emergency Temporary Standards to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19. The revisions update the requirements for face coverings, physical distancing, and other prevention measures for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers.

If approved by the State Office of Administrative Law, the revised standards will go into effect no later than June 15. Certain provisions will take effect on July 31, 2021.

[UPDATE 02/26/21] A San Francisco judge has rejected a request for an injunction from California's emergency COVID-19 requirements for employers. Cal/OSHA can continue to enforce the emergency temporary standard (ETS) while legal challenges play out. 

From the decision: "...the balance of interim harms and the public interest in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting worker and community health weigh heavily in favor of the continued implementation and enforcement of ETS Regulations." 

The decision goes on to say that, except for limits on religious services, " federal or state court in the country has blocked emergency public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, and the illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths that follow in its wake. This Court will not be the first." 

[UPDATE 12/01/20] California's emergency COVID-19 requirements for employers were approved and took effect on November 30, 2020. 

[UPDATE 11/25/20] Last week, Cal/OSHA voted unanimously to adopt additional emergency temporary standards to help protect workers in the Golden State from COVID-19. Under the new standards, most employers not currently subject to the state's Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard will be required to implement a coronavirus prevention program. The prevention plan can include (but is not limited to):
  • A communication system to inform employees about new COVID-19 policies and procedures;
  • Establishing methods for screening and identifying potential COVID hazards in the workplace;
  • Implementing physical distancing and face coverings measures; and
  • Developing criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19.
The measures are expected to be approved by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) in the coming days. Once approved, the new emergency standards will appear in the new Title 8 sections 3205-3205.4 of the California Code of Regulations. Then the requirements will go into effect on November 30, 2020.

[UPDATE 10/08/20] A new California state law (A.B. 2537) takes effect on April 1, 2021 and requires California hospitals stockpile a three-month supply of masks, gowns, and PPE

[UPDATE 9/18/20] On Thursday, September 17, California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted unanimously to approve a petition for emergency rulemaking to protect employees who are not already covered by the state's Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard from exposure to COVID-19 at work.

Cal/OSHA will amend Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations (8 CCR) to create new worker protections and a provision for employee COVID-19 training, as the approved petition encouraged them to do. 

[UPDATE 09/17/20] California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is considering a petition for an emergency rulemaking to enact COVID-19 protection measures for workers not currently protected by the state's Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard. The petition also suggests the board consider following up the emergency rulemaking with a permanent rule. 

The petition calls new regulatory requirements including a provision for employee COVID-19 training. Under California's Labor Code (section 142.2) interested persons can propose new or revised workplace safety and heath regulations for the Board's consideration. The Board is required to consider the proposal and issue a decision within a set time frame (typically six months, currently extended to nine months by the Governor). 

[Original Text - Posted September 2020]
As part of California's Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) requirements, employers must protect workers workplace hazards, including infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Employee training and instruction is required for new employees and "whenever the employer is made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard" (8 CCR 3203(a)(7)).

COVID-19 certainly fits the bill of a newly recognized hazard.

What Kind of Training is Required?

The IIPP requires employers to provide coronavirus-specific training for their employees when returning to work in many specific subject areas, including:

  • General description of COVID-19, symptoms, when to seek medical attention, how to prevent its spread, and the employer’s procedures for preventing its spread at the workplace;
  • How an infected person can spread COVID-19 to others even if they are not sick;
  • CDC guidelines related to cloth face coverings: proper use and care, how they prevent community spread, and a comparison to PPE. (Note: cloth face coverings are NOT considered PPE by Cal/OSHA);
  • Instructions on washing and sanitizing hands with an emphasis on avoiding close contact with others and frequently-touched surfaces; and
  • Safely using cleaners and disinfectants, including potential hazards, proper usage, and how and when to wear PPE (such as gloves).

See the full list of training requirements here.

California's Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard 

Under California's state Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard found in 8 CCR section 5199, Cal/OSHA requires employers to protect workers from airborne diseases (including COVID-19) and pathogens.

The ATD Standard applies to medical facilities, laboratories, public health services, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, funeral homes, mortuaries, and other locations. As part of the ATD Standard, employers must provide employee training and annual re-training (8 CCR 5199(i)(2)(B)).    

Now Available: COVID-19 Safety Awareness Online Training

This week, Lion launched the COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness Online Course to help US workplaces re-open safely. As facilities nationwide begin to re-open, it is crucial that employees know how to protect themselves and their co-workers from exposure to COVID-19.

The course prepares employees to:

  • Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors for COVID-19
  • Describe how the COVID-19 disease is transmitted
  • Follow recommended hygiene and work protocols to prevent exposure
  •  Properly use and care for PPE and face coverings, when required 
The course is designed to help employers nationwide satisfy COVID-19 employee awareness and training requirements now in place in many states, including California. 

Tags: california IIPP, coronavirus training, covid-19 training by state, COVID-19 training california, employee training, OSH Act, SARS-CoV-2

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