On the 30th of November, new California OSHA Emergency COVID-19 Regulations were introduced in an effort to control the coronavirus disease outbreak at the workplace. On the 19th of November, 2020, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board made a decision after unanimously voting to adopt an Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Rule at the workplace. This action was taken following a contentious public hearing with over 500 participants in attendance. Following that, the Emergency Rule was presented to California’s Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) for further approval, implementation, and publication. The new rule brings with it a combination of unique requirements, making all officially approved provisions effective immediately.
How Will This Help California Employers?
To help California employers manage their workforces’ health and prepare the workplace to avoid any COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the main highlights of this program include:
- Mandatory requirements for employers to develop a written COVID-19 prevention program
- The program should consist of well-established elements, including mandated physical distancing, face coverings, well-designed engineering and administrative controls, and PPE
- The program should mandate excluding positive and exposed employees to return to work.
- Implement protocols, training, and employee communication to improve workplace safety and manage infection control.
- As per the newest California Injury and Illness Prevention Program requirements, employers must periodically conduct workplace COVID-19 hazard assessments. The assessments must comply with the latest procedures for investigating, reporting, recording, and responding to every positive case at the worksite. Employers must also develop strategies for correcting the hazards if identified.
- Employers must logistically plan to implement mandatory testing and mitigation measures.
Additionally, the new regulations have adopted a series of unique requirements when it comes to workplace outbreaks.
Minor outbreaks – three or more cases in 14 days
Major outbreaks – 20 or more cases in 30 days
Employer Duties to Protect Against Risk
To protect the workplace and workforce against the risk of COVID-19, it’s the employer’s responsibility to take necessary actions. Establishing a COVID-19 Prevention Program is essential as per the newest Cal-OSHA regulations.
COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP)
Employers must establish, implement, and maintain a written COVID-19 prevention program as per the newest guidelines. This program can also be integrated into the Workplace Illness and Injury Prevention Program.
Here are the top required elements to include in the employer’s CPP:
System for Communicating:
- Ask employees to report any symptoms, possible COVID exposures, and infections without fear of reprisal in the workplace.
- Help employees understand the risks associated with COVID-19, especially those with medical or other conditions that put them at increased risk.
- Communicate with employees and provide info about access to COVID testing.
- Provide info about COVID hazards and the employer’s policies and procedures to protect employees.
Identifying and Evaluating COVID-19 Hazards:
- Allow employee and authorized employee-representative participation in the COVID-19 Prevention Program and its identification and evaluation as well.
- Develop a daily process for employee screening and responding to COVID-19 symptoms.
- Create a company-specific Standard Operation Procedure to respond immediately to COVID-19 cases at the worksite.
- Develop a workplace-specific assessment and conduct it periodically to monitor interactions, areas, activities, processes, equipment, and materials that could expose employees to COVID-19 hazards.
- Actively evaluate indoor spaces to ensure workplace safety. Implement procedures to maximize air quality and ventilation.
- Review and apply applicable orders and industry-specific guidance from the State of California and the local health department.
- Evaluate existing COVID-19 prevention controls and modify those guidelines as needed for additional controls.
- Conduct periodic worksite inspections to identify unhealthy conditions, work practices, and work procedures to ensure compliance with COVID-19 policies.
Employer Duties in the Event of an Outbreak:
Investigating and Responding to COVID-19 Cases.
- Adopt and facilitate an effective procedure to investigate and respond to COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
- Record and verify each COVID-19 case status and help employees as needed.
- Monitor and contact trace to find out who may have had a COVID-19 exposure.
- Communicate with the employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and assist them further as needed.
- Contact all employees and independent contractors who may have had COVID-19 exposure.
Assist employees with COVID-19 testing (at no cost, during working time) if they are exposed at the workplace due to an outbreak.
COVID19 Testing shall consist of the following:
- Quick follow up test after identifying an outbreak and contact tracing all who might have been exposed.
- After the first two tests, provide weekly COVID-19 testing for all the employees who remain at the workplace, or more frequently as per the local health department’s recommendations. Employers must continue testing until there are no new cases for 14 days.
- Provide additional COVID-19 testing when deemed necessary.
- Investigate the cause of workplace outbreak and what could have contributed to the risk of COVID-19 exposure and hazards before implementing an action plan.
Correction of Hazards:
Employers must develop and implement effective policies and procedures to address unsafe or unhealthy conditions at the worksite. Identify and implement policies and procedures on time, based on the severity of the hazard.
In addition to implementing various effective policies and procedures to minimize workplace COVID-19 hazards, employers must pay close attention to worksite sanitizing and best practices.
- Promote physical distancing, hand hygiene, and mandatory face coverings at work.
- Employers must provide face coverings and PPEs, and other engineering and administrative controls as needed.
Return to Work Criteria:
Employers must closely monitor all workplace-related COVID-19 cases before implementing a return-to-work program with the following regulations.
Employees with COVID-19 symptoms shall not return to work until:
- No fever is recorded for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications.
- Improved COVID-19 symptoms and at least ten days have passed since the COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.
- Tested negative and a minimum of 10 days have passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive COVID-19 test.
- A negative COVID-19 test shall not be required for an employee to return to work.
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With a career focused on business operations and organic digital marketing, Chitra is fascinated by the fast-paced world of search engine optimization. After moving from biotechnology to business operations in just three years, Chitra then made a drastic drift to start her freelance content writing and online marketing career. With Axiom, as a content marketing specialist, she is passionate about creating informative marketing copies.