Are you ready for some regulatory jargon? We’ve untangled all of it for you and picked out the updates you need to know about proposed changes to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The pandemic-era rule, which was first adopted in November 2020 and applies to most workers in California, is slated to expire at the end of this year. To replace it, Cal/OSHA is proposing a temporary non-emergency rule that would go into effect for two years beginning January 1, 2023.
There would no opportunity for reevaluation during the two-year window, which makes it even more critical for business leaders to ensure Cal/OSHA gets it right.
The agency’s Standards Board held a public hearing yesterday on the proposed rule. There are several key differences from the current rule that make it easier for employers to operate in a post-pandemic world.
- Employers would no longer be required to provide exclusion pay to employees who are excluded from the workplace due to COVID-19.
- Employers would no longer be required to conduct temperature checks.
- COVID-19 would be classified as a workplace hazard that employers should address through their written Injury & Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP), allowing employers greater flexibility in how their written documents address COVID-19.
- Employers would be required to notify close contacts about a COVID-19 case in the workplace “as soon as possible” instead of the current standard (within one business day).
- Definitions of “close contact” used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and Cal/OSHA would be brought into alignment.
Certain requirements and definitions relating to COVID-19 outbreaks would remain in place under the proposed non-emergency rule. Outbreaks would still be defined as 3 or more COVID-19 cases among employees during any 14-day period. Testing would still have to be made available to employees at no cost when an outbreak occurs, and then weekly until the outbreak ends.
We want to thank BizFed leaders in attendance at yesterday’s hearing who stepped up to raise important business community concerns.
- Contact tracing has been show to NOT be effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, and is costly and time consuming.
- Sharing air space makes someone a “close contact” under Cal/OSHA’s current COVID-19 rules. This is a vague blanket definition that shouldn’t be applied the same way to workspaces of vastly different sizes (i.e. a 3-person office vs. a 3,000-person warehouse).
- The two-year sunset period should be reevaluated at 6-month intervals.
Yesterday also marked the end of the 45-day public comment period on the proposed rule. We anticipate a Cal/OSHA vote to adopt the rule on December 15. We’ll keep you updated in the coming weeks. Please contact BizFed Policy Manager Denise Kniter at email@example.com if you have any questions.