After a vote on June 17th by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) to adopt the revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), Governor Newsom signed an executive order to have the changes take immediate effect on that day.
These revised regulations are California’s latest COVID-19 public health guidance.
Cal/OSHA notes that the revised ETS (the third version since late May) more closely aligns with the CDC and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines on face covering restrictions and physical distancing.
Here are a few of the most significant changes:
Proof that Employees are “Fully Vaccinated”
Cal/OSHA says that an employee is deemed “fully vaccinated” when he or she can show that they’ve received at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
California employers must collect and maintain data on employee vaccinations. Businesses should be aware of confidentiality and privacy concerns. Cal/OSHA clarified that acceptable methods for documenting status include the following:
- An employee provides proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and the employer maintains a copy;
- Proof of vaccination shown to the employer, and the employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself; or
- Self-attestation by employee and employer maintains a record of who self-attests.
Employees who don’t provide the required documentation or attestation of their fully vaccinated status are to be treated as unvaccinated for all purposes in the revised ETS.
Fully vaccinated employees are no longer required to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors. The only exception is in certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where the CDPH requires all persons to wear them.
California employers are required to document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they don’t wear face coverings indoors. Outdoors, face coverings aren’t required for unvaccinated employees (except for certain employees during outbreaks), as discussed below.
Employees who aren’t fully vaccinated must continue to wear face coverings while indoors or in vehicles with some exceptions, such as when eating or drinking, while alone in a room, or while physical distancing.
No More Physical Distancing
Physical distancing requirements are now eliminated, even for unvaccinated employees.
The only exception is where an employer determines there’s a hazard and for certain employees during major outbreaks.
Respirators to be Available Upon Request
Employees who are not fully vaccinated can ask for respirators from their employers. These must be provided at no charge when working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person. But employers aren’t required to mandate their usage.
COVID Testing to be Available
Employers must offer COVID-19 testing at no charge during paid time to employees with COVID-19 symptoms who aren’t fully vaccinated. They also can’t require that it be a work-related exposure.
Employer Requirements Still in Effect
There are a number of important requirements from the November 2020 COVID-19 Temporary Standard that are still in place, including the requirement that California employers must establish, implement, and maintain an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program that includes:
- Identifying and evaluating employee exposures to COVID-19 health hazards;
- Implementing effective policies and procedures to rectify unsafe and unhealthy conditions; and
- Permitting enough time for handwashing and cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, phones, headsets, bathroom surfaces, and steering wheels.
The employer must also inform employees of the cleaning and disinfection protocols, including the planned frequency and scope of cleaning and disinfection.
COVID-19 Prevention Training
Cal/OSHA has implemented a new requirement that COVID-19 prevention training must now cover how the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 and protecting against both transmission and serious illness or death.
When there are multiple COVID-19 infections and outbreaks, California businesses are required to adhere to the requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks. This is defined as three or more cases in an exposed workgroup in a 14-day period or a major outbreak, which is defined as 20 or more cases within a 30-day period.
Cal/OSHA says that in an outbreak, face coverings are required, regardless of an employee’s vaccination status indoors. It’s also required outdoors in situations where the employees are less than six feet from one another. Moreover, in a major outbreak, the six-foot physical distance requirement should be enforced, if feasible, both indoors and outdoors.