Cal/OSHA Revises, Readopts COVID-19 ETS for California Workplaces

On Thursday, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) convened to review the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) governing COVID-19 protocols for most California workplaces.

OSHSB considered revisions to its existing ETS, including the latest recommendations from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The revisions to the ETS will take effect on January 14, 2022, and remain in place for 90 days. The following revisions were made during Thursday’s meeting:

  • COVID-19 Cases in the Workplace – Employers must continue to properly notify employees, employee representatives, and any other workers at a worksite of possible COVID-19 exposure within one business day. This section was updated to provide employers clearer instructions on how to notify workers who were at the same worksite as the COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.
  • Face Coverings – The definition of face coverings was updated to include more detail on the different types of acceptable face coverings for workplace settings.
  • Testing and Exclusions – The ETS was revised to be more consistent with current CDPH recommendations:
    • Employers are now required to make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during paid time to employees who were fully vaccinated before the “close contact” with a COVID-19 case occurred, even if they are asymptomatic
    • During outbreaks and major outbreaks, employers must now make weekly testing (outbreaks) or twice-weekly testing (major outbreaks) available to asymptomatic fully vaccinated employees in the exposed group
    • Employees who have recently recovered from COVID-19 and those who are fully vaccinated are not required to be excluded from the workplace after “close contact” but must wear a face covering and physically distance for 14 calendar days from the last date of contact
  • Return to Work Criteria – The period of time before an employee can return to work after close contact or COVID-19 infection has been revised to be consistent with CDPH guidelines. Time frames will automatically update if CDPH updates their guidelines, pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order N-84-20.

Other critical workplace requirements remain unchanged in the updated COVID-19 Prevention ETS. Employers must continue to maintain an effective COVID-19 Prevention Program that includes identifying and evaluating employee exposures to COVID-19 health hazards, training employees on how to prevent hazards, and implementing procedures to correct unsafe conditions.

Additional information from Cal/OSHA is available here.