CAL/OSHA ISSUES NEW EMERGENCY COVID REGULATIONS
On November 30, 2020, California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved Cal/OSHA’s emergency COVID-19 regulations, making them effective immediately. The new regulations are related to workplace exposures and infections and require most California employers to establish, implement, and maintain a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan (CPP). A detailed description of CPP requirements can be found here. There are limited exceptions, such as for employees who work exclusively from home. For Cal/OSHA’s own summary of the new regulations, click here.
The California Department of Industrial Relations has published guidance in the form of FAQ regarding the new regulations, which can be accessed here. Cal/OSHA has also provided a CPP template for employers to use, accessible in the FAQ link listed above.
It is important that employers review the guidance and the new regulations in preparing a compliant CPP and related protocols. The Department of Industrial Relations has recognized that employers cannot become 100% compliant immediately. But the agency issued the following information:
- Employers must comply with the new regulations starting November 30, 2020.
- Many of the new provisions of these regulations (use of face coverings and physical distancing) have already been required under employers’ Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPP).
- As employers implement the new regulations, Cal/OSHA enforcement will consider an employer’s good faith efforts in working toward compliance. Some aspects, however, (eliminating hazards, implementing testing requirements during an outbreak) are essential.
- It is an employer’s duty to provide paid leave when employees are excluded from the workplace for 14 days to quarantine. This exclusion pay comes directly out of the employer’s own pocket and is in addition to an employer’s duty to provide supplemental paid COVID-19 sick leave (pursuant to AB 1867 and the federal FFCRA).
- An employer may require an affected employee to exhaust paid sick leave benefits prior to providing exclusion pay out of its own pocket. If an employer establishes that the employee’s exposure was not work-related, these obligations do not apply.
- Due to the nature of COVID-19 infection and potential quarantine procedures, this process could happen repeatedly, with the employee entitled to paid leave each time.
The bottom line for most employers is this: employers need to implement their written plans immediately and comply with the new regulations. Penalties for non-compliance can be substantial, ranging from $13,000 to over $100,000 depending on the nature of the violation and the resulting harm. Although there appears to be some possible discretion to enforcement, at least in the short term, best practice is to come into compliance as soon as possible.
If you are in need of assistance regarding your CPP or any of the new COVID-19 regulations, please do not hesitate to contact us.