Cal/OSHA Requires California Employers to Immediately Implement COVID-19 Prevention Program and Recordkeeping

By Alyssa Levy

Effective immediately, Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards (adopted November 30, 2020) require nearly all California employers to implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program or ensure its elements are included in an existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). There are three exceptions: remote employees working from home, employees working alone, and employees covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Disease regulation.

Requirements for employers include, but are not limited to, implementing a workplace-specific written COVID-19 prevention program addressing health hazards, correcting any unsafe conditions, providing COVID-19 training, ensuring 6-foot distancing, and providing face coverings. If multiple employees contract COVID-19, employers must provide COVID-19 testing during working hours.  Employees who test positive for COVID-19 may not return to work until certain requirements are met.  Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards recommend that Employers review the full list of requirements for application to their employees.

The standards also include specific requirements for recordkeeping and reporting of COVID-19 cases. This includes tracking all confirmed COVID-19 cases and maintaining records of inspections, hazard corrections, and training.  Employers must contact the local health department if three or more COVID-19 cases occur in the workplace within a 14-day period.

Employers should also be aware that these standards require excluding employees from the workplace who have had possible workplace exposure to COVID-19 for 14 days after their last known workplace exposure and that an employer must continue paying the employees during this time.  Even for employers following the safety standards, this essentially means that employers may be required to send employees home with pay for 14 days each and every time there is a known workplace exposure to a COVID-19 positive employee, regardless of limits on leave allowances set by the employer or other statutes.  This requirement to continue wages may seem beyond the purview of Cal/OSHA, but it is part of the standard’s requirements for now.

Cal/OSHA has indicated that enforcement of the standards will consider an employer’s good faith efforts towards compliance.  However, employers should keep in mind that such efforts are only consideration and may not be enough for investigators to overlook whether an employer has actually complied with Cal/OSHA’s requirements under this emergency standard.