Since early 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Cal/OSHA”) has enacted many different rules and regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. All such rules and regulations were enacted as emergency temporary standards (“ETS”) which were set to expire after six months but were ultimately extended by Governor Newsom.
On December 15, 2022, Cal/OSHA voted to enact a new, non-emergency standard. The new standard will take effect in mid-January 2023 and will be effective for two years. The new standard will have some differences, but also some similarities, to the prior ETS.
The ETS currently requires employers to maintain an employee’s pay and benefits during isolation and quarantine due to a work-related exposure. The new standard will eliminate this pay requirement. However, local jurisdictions may decide to pass local regulations which provide COVID-19-based sick leave benefits.
The new standard makes major changes to the testing of employees for COVID-19. The ETS required employers to screen employees for symptoms prior to beginning their workday and to provide free tests to symptomatic employees. Neither of these requirements will exists under the new standard.
Both the ETS and the new standard include requirements for how to handle non-major outbreaks (three cases within an “exposed group” in a 14-day period) and major outbreaks (20 cases within an exposed group in a 30-day period). Employers will still need to report major outbreaks to Cal/OSHA but will no longer need to report non-major outbreaks. In addition, employers will no longer need to evaluate whether six-foot physical distancing would be an appropriate measure to prevent further spread during a non-major outbreak.
Under the new standard, employers will no longer have to maintain records of the steps taken to implement the written COVID-19 Prevention Program. However, employers must maintain records for two years of all employees who tested positive for COVID-19.
These are just some of the many changes and similarities between the new standard and the ETS. To ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and the safety of their employees, employers should review the new standard on the Cal/OSHA website as well any information provided by local health agencies.