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Cal/OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards


Cal/OSHA has once again extended its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards, which cover employers’ obligations to protect their workers against the coronavirus.

This is the third time the ETS has been extended and this one is slated to expire at the end of 2022. It’s being introduced as Cal/OSHA finalizes work on its permanent infectious disease standard. While the extended ETS includes many of the same provisions as the previous version, there are some changes.

The new ETS, which took effect May 6, was written to be more flexible in response to when the California Department of Public Health updates its COVID-19 guidance, which it does as case counts and deaths grow and wane. As the new ETS was being released case counts were once again rising, prompting the CDPH to update its guidance on prevention.

Here are the main changes that employers need to know about to ensure compliance:

Face coverings

  • Face coverings are no longer required indoors. This applies both to vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.
  • Face coverings will be mandatory if the CDPH requires their use via new guidance. Employers must review CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Masks to learn when face coverings are required.
  • Employers will still be required to provide face coverings for employees who request it. Employees must be allowed to wear a face covering at work regardless of their vaccination status and without fear of retaliation.

Testing, returning to work

  • Employers are required to make COVID-19 testing available to employees who have COVID-19 symptoms or have come into close contact with co-workers during outbreaks in the workplace. This applies regardless of if the employee is vaccinated or not.
  • Isolation requirements for employees who test positive for COVID-19 have been updated to reflect the most recent CDPH isolation and quarantine guidelines. These guidelines will change as community spread changes, and employers are encouraged to check them if there is an outbreak or an employee comes down with coronavirus.
  • Regardless of vaccination status, employees who test positive may return to work after five days if they have a negative test, symptoms are improving, and they wear a mask at work for an additional five days. Otherwise, most employees may return to work after 10 days.
  • After an employee is exposed to or contracts COVID-19, they need only show a photo of negative results of a home test that was self-read and self-administered as proof they are no longer infectious. The new regulations eliminate the requirement that a video or observation of the entire test process is necessary. Instead, just a date and time-stamped photo of the test result will be sufficient.

Finally, the new ETS eliminates requirements covering cleaning and disinfecting procedures in the workplace to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The takeaway

You should note that the above are only the changes to the ETS. All other parts of the ETS remain in effect and it’s important that employers stay vigilant about complying with Cal/OSHA regulations.

You can find the full ETS on Cal/OSHA’s website.

Important: The agency continues to enforce the ETS and employers that don’t comply can face inspections and penalties if they are found out of compliance. Stay on top of your obligations to protect your employees and avoid any issues with Cal/OSHA.