The California Occupational Safety and Health Administrative has issued its important updated to the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) applicable to all employers as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The updated ETS (effective May 7, 2022) changes the following workplace rules as they pertain to COVID-19, and evidence a relaxing of certain workplace COVID-19 mandates. These standards are in place until December 31, 2022 and should be currently implemented.
Face covering requirements are the same for all employees regardless of vaccination status and are no longer required in all indoor locations. However, Face coverings are mandatory when required by the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) requires their use.
Employers must review CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Masks to learn when face coverings are required.
Employees can still request face coverings from the employer at no cost to the employee and can wear them at work, regardless of vaccination status and without fear of retaliation.
Employers must provide respirators to employees who request them for voluntary use regardless of vaccination status.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
The standards no longer include any cleaning and disinfecting requirements.
Testing and Exclusion
Employers are now required to make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during paid time to employees with COVID-19 symptoms regardless of vaccination status and regardless of whether there is a known exposure. COVID-19 testing must also be made available to employees who had a close contact in the workplace, during outbreaks, and during major outbreaks.
The detailed prescriptive requirements for exclusion of employees after close contact have been deleted. Instead, employers must review CPDH guidelines for individuals who had close contact and implement quarantine and other measures in the workplace to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
The requirements for employees who test positive for COVID-19 have been updated to reflect the most recent CDPH isolation and quarantine guidelines. Regardless of vaccination status, positive employees can return to work after 5 days if the employee has a negative test, symptoms are improving, and they wear a face covering at work for an additional 5 days. Otherwise most employees can return after 10 days.
“Close contact” and “infectious period” are now defined so that their meaning will change if CDPH changes its definition of the term in a regulation or order. This will allow more flexibility and consistency with CDPH.
“COVID-19 test” was simplified to make it easier to use self-administered and self-read tests. A video or observation of the entire test process is no longer necessary; just a date/timestamped photo of the test result will now be sufficient.
“Fully vaccinated” was deleted as this term is no longer used in the regulations. All protections now apply regardless of vaccination status and requirements do not vary based on an employee’s vaccination status.
The COVID-19 Pandemic is not over and these updated job safety regulations are an important reminder that OSHA will continue to aggressively regulate workplace safety related to the Pandemic.
Again, these revisions will remain in place until the end of this calendar year.