FAQs – Cal/OSHA Safety Regulations
From Navigating COVID-19
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What industries or employers fall within the aerosol transmissible disease standard and, therefore, don't have to comply with the Cal/OSHA regulations?
Businesses must conduct an assessment of whether employees have occupational exposure to aerosol transmissible diseases (ATDs). The exposure can be by work activity or working conditions that are reasonably anticipated to create an elevated risk of contracting any disease caused by aerosol transmissible pathogens or aerosol transmissible pathogens-laboratory if protective measures are not in place.
Whether a particular employee has occupational exposure depends on his or her specific tasks, activities and work environment. For example, occupational exposure typically does not exist if a hospital employee works only in an office environment separated from patient care facilities.
Under the applicable ATD regulations, these establishments/services are required to conduct an assessment to determine whether their employees have occupational exposure to ATDs:
- hospitals, skilled nursing facilities
- clinics, medical offices and other outpatient medical facilities
- facilities where high hazard procedures are performed
- home health care, long-term health care facilities, hospices
- medical outreach services
- paramedic and emergency medical services (including such services when provided by firefighters and other emergency responders)
- medical transport
- police services
- public health services
- correctional facilities
- homeless shelters
- drug treatment programs
- pathology laboratories, medical examiners' facilities, coroners' offices, mortuaries, laboratories where procedures use materials that contain or are reasonably anticipated to contain aerosol transmissible pathogens
- maintenance, renovation, service or repair operations involving air-handling systems or equipment or building areas that may reasonably be anticipated to be contaminated with aerosol transmissible pathogens
- hazardous waste and emergency response operations
Outpatient dental clinics, outpatient medical specialty practices and residential care facilities where employees provide social services, but no medical care, are not subject to the ADT standard, if certain conditions are met.
For additional information see the statute governing ATD.
What if employees generally work from home, but occasionally come into the office — are the Cal/OSHA regulations applicable?
Yes. If workers come into the office or facility for any reason, even occasionally or for short periods of time, the business must comply with the regulations.
I own very small bakery with one part-time employee. Must my business comply with the Cal/OSHA regulations?
Yes, if the employee has any contact with the public or other persons.
How do the Cal/OSHA regulations apply to temporary agencies or staffing firms?
The same regulations apply. The only difference is that a temporary agency or staffing firm probably will learn of a potential exposure from the contracted employer. In that case, the temporary enterprise must provide notice to the exposed employee, make testing available and pay the excluded employee’s earnings if applicable.
Temporary agency and staffing firms might consider negotiating with the contracting employer to assume the cost of these requirements, especially if the exposure is found to be work related.
Must workers be screened before they enter the workplace?
Yes. Employers must develop a screening procedure and require employees to participate, either a self-screening process in which workers evaluate their own symptoms before entering the workplace or a workplace program developed by the business in which employees are screened as they enter the workplace.
Employers must pay employees for the time it takes them to self-screen, and must reimburse them for any equipment, such as a thermometer, it requires.
Employers also must pay for the time it takes nonexempt employees to be screened on-site, and employees and screeners must wear face coverings and use a noncontact thermometer.
Should businesses save the results of on-site screening?
Yes. Keeping records of the screening process shows compliance with the Cal/OSHA regulations and demonstrate that the employer is doing everything required to maintain a safe workplace. Records should be kept confidential and not in personnel files.
How does a business determine who might have been exposed to COVID-19?
Employers must exclude from the workplace not only COVID-19 cases but people potentially exposed. The regulations require employers to determine who might have been exposed, to provide notice of potential exposure, to exclude those individuals from the workplace to and provide testing. The CDC defines "close contact" the same as the regulations: being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the high-risk exposure period.
The high-risk exposure period for COVID-19 cases exhibiting symptoms is two days before the first symptoms developed until 10 days after symptoms first appeared, and 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and symptoms have improved. For asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, the high-risk exposure period is the two days before until 10 days after the specimen for the first positive test for COVID-19 was collected.
So employers must determine which employees meet the definition of a COVID-19 exposure, then provide them notice, the opportunity to be tested and exclude them from the workplace.
If a business is not allowed to require a negative COVID-19 test in order for an employee to return to work, how does it know when it's safe for that worker to return?
To comply with the return-to-work guidelines in the regulations, an employer must rely on its employee's report that he or she is asymptomatic, or that symptoms have subsided.
- at least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications;
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved;
- at least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.
- Employees who test positive but never developed COVID-19 symptoms should not return to work until a minimum of 10 days have passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive COVID-19 test.
Employers should document efforts they make to confirm that employees meet these criteria before allowing them to return to work. In addition, it might be prudent to require returning employees sign a document attesting that they fit within the required guidelines to demonstrate the employer's commitment to maintaining a safe workplace.
Not all employees have primary care providers, and many are reluctant to pay the co-pay to consult them. So may employers use the time-based, symptom-based measure to determine if workers may return to work?
Yes. Employers are not allowed to require a negative test or a doctor’s note before permitting an employee to return to work.
When must the full quarantine period of up to 14 days be imposed?
The regulations require a full 14-day exclusion from the workplace after the last known exposure to a COVID-19 case.
Is a contact-tracing app that's used by anyone who comes onto a work site sufficient to determine possible COVID-19 exposure, or is additional investigation necessary?
If the app can identify individuals who, per the regulations, are within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the high-risk exposure period, the app probably is sufficient.
Of course, the employer must ensure that all employees and others in the workplace are using the app properly. If the employer can't guarantee proper use, it might be necessary to investigate further as required by the regulations.
Cal/OSHA is clear that reporting a serious illness is not an admission that it's work related, nor is it an admission of responsibility.
If employee A was exposed outside the workplace to someone with COVID-19 and needs to quarantine, must the business quarantine any employees who were exposed to employee A if that worker has no symptoms nor tests positive?
No. The regulations require exclusion only if the worker is exposed to a COVID-19 case (an employee with a confirmed positive test). If employee A tests positive, all employees exposed to him or her, per the definition of a COVID-19 exposure, must be excluded from the workplace.
After a COVID-19 exposure, are employers able to bring back employees before the 14-day quarantine expires if their physicians provide a return-to-work clearance?
Probably not, as the regulations don’t allow for quarantine exceptions unless the employer applies to Cal/OSHA because of the potential for “undue risk to a community’s health and safety.”
If an employee is quarantining at home because a family member is positive but the worker tests negative, may he or she return to work before the quarantine period expires for a shift when no other employees are working?
No. There are no exceptions to the exclusion or quarantine requirements in the regulations unless the employer applies to Cal/OSHA to allow the asymptomatic and negative employee to remain at work or return to work early because “removal would create undue risk to a community’s health and safety.”
If a business is considered “essential” and employs essential infrastructure workers, may the employees continue to work if they have been exposed to COVID-19, but test negative and show no symptoms?
The only exception to the exclusion, isolation and quarantine mandates in the regulations is for the employer to request that Cal/OSHA allow the asymptomatic and negative employee to remain at work or return to work early because “removal would create undue risk to a community’s health and safety.”
The regulations require that employers conduct “periodic inspections” to identify unhealthful conditions and COVID-19 hazards. What does "periodic" mean?
The regulations don’t define what “periodic” means except to require that an investigation and inspection be conducted after a positive COVID-19 case. The inspection should be as frequent as necessary to ensure that employees are protected, and may be more frequent for high-touch or highly used areas (such as break rooms and bathrooms). A walk-through of the facility should be conducted daily to ensure that employees aren’t engaging in habits or using equipment or performing duties in a way that compromises a safe environment for others.
Cal/OSHA requires employers to pay for testing in certain circumstances. Must a business enter into a relationship with the testing facility or may it refer employees to the county-provided local free testing sites available during work hours?
The regulations don’t define how or where the testing should take place. So it's probably permissible to direct employees to the local walk-up free testing site. The employer will have to pay for the time the worker stands in line and gets tested. The business should have a policy directing employees to immediately disclose their results to the employer.
If it's determined that employees have been exposed to a COVID-19 case, how soon must a business offer testing?
The regulations are silent as to how quickly testing must be offered. Testing is recommended within 24 hours of the known COVID-19 case because employers are required by the regulations and Assembly Bill 685 to notify exposed employees within one day.
To offer testing quickly and efficiently, employers should investigate testing options now, before they're faced with a COVID-19 case and must respond with dispatch.
A business requires employees to report any COVID-19 symptoms to their managers, who then complete a report. Is that sufficient per the Cal/OSHA regulations?
Employers should require employees to report all symptoms of COVID-19 to enable the employer to exclude them from the workplace. It is a sufficient policy for businesses to instruct employees to report symptoms to their supervisor or manager provided that the manager immediately reports it to someone with the authority to begin an investigation to exclude the employee, provide testing and exclude any possibly exposed employees. A written report should be made of the company’s effort to comply with its policy.
Several employees have underlying disabilities or comorbidities that a business accommodates. Must the employer ask these workers if they need additional accommodations because they might be at severe risk of COVID-19?
No. In fact, we discourage employers from questioning employees about their known or suspected disabilities, medical conditions or comorbidities to determine whether they need or want additional accommodations. Employers are required to accommodate known disabilities and it’s the employee’s responsibility to request a specific accommodation. If an employee doesn’t request an accommodation it might be considered harassing or discriminatory to provide an accommodation that excludes or limits an employee’s access to the workplace.
A better strategy is to follow the business' policy and require doctors’ notes, engage in the interactive process and provide accommodations when and if requested.
Do the Cal/OSHA regulations require businesses to notify employees now of their rights to certain company benefits, or may employers wait until AB 685 becomes effective Jan. 1, 2021?
The Cal/OSHA regulations require that at the time of exclusion from the workplace the employer must provide the worker with information on earnings and benefits. The notice must include benefits potentially available to the excluded employee under federal, state or local laws, including workers' compensation, and must include employer-provided benefits.
If an employee tests positive and the company offers paid time off (PTO), may the employee apply for EDD disability benefits, and is the company permitted to supplement those benefits with PTO to provide the worker's full salary under the new regulations?
Probably. If the COVID-19 case applies for and receives state disability benefits, the employer may, at the employee's option, supplement the disability payments with the worker's accrued but unused PTO to compensate 100% of the wages.
Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to continue an employee’s earnings and benefits if he or she is required to quarantine. Under what specific circumstances is an employer required to continue earnings and benefits?
Employees are entitled to receive continued earnings, benefits and seniority if (1) they are excluded from work; (2) they are able and available to work; and (3) the exposure is work related.
If an employee is able and available to work, an employer may allow him or her to work from home, isolate within the facility and away from other employees or otherwise allow him or her to work without exposing others.
An employee has already taken his 80 hours of expanded sick pay under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. He or she has been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace and must quarantine again. Must the employer pay for the second quarantine?
If the employee is (1) excluded from work; (2) able and available to work; and (3) the exposure is work related, the employer must continue his or her earnings, benefits and seniority, and return the worker to his or her former job. A previous quarantine is irrelevant.
The employer may use accrued but unused sick leave to offset the employer paid wages.
If an employee is eligible for earnings and benefit continuation while he or she quarantines, but has no sick pay available, must the employer still pay?
The definition of outbreak per Senate Bill 1159 is different from that of Cal/OSHA. Should employers follow the more restrictive Cal/OSHA definition of outbreak to ensure that they follow the mandatory reporting for outbreaks?
Yes. In general, if there is a discrepancy among federal, state and local laws, employers are required to follow the law or regulation that provides the most benefit or the greatest protection to employees.
If multiple employees work in a large room and are able to distance more than six feet, are they all required to wear face covering at all times?
No, if the employer can ensure that all employees are consistently separated by at least six feet and if it enforces the use of face coverings when such separation is not possible.
Employees are allowed to use a break room for eating and as a respite from their work space. Are masks required during those intervals?
Employees are required to identify and correct any unhealthful conditions, work practices or procedures. Allowing employees to gather in a break room could be considered an unhealthful condition that should be corrected. It might be necessary for some employers to close the break room because it's too difficult to monitor physical distance and the use of face coverings, and to limit the number of people in the break room at one time. Also, the break room has numerous high-touch areas that might be difficult to keep clean and disinfected.
If the break room is kept open, employers should develop written procedures detailing how employees are protected when using it, designate an employee responsible for limiting the number of employees allowed in, monitor social distancing and face covering use, and clean and disinfect frequently.
Are there requirements for landlords to ensure that tenants have the compliant ventilation?
No. But employers should contact their landlords and confirm that the ventilation systems serving their workplace are compliant. Documenting the effort and the landlord response are important to demonstrate compliance with the regulations.
If an employee reports to a main work site, then is transported in employer-provided vehicles to a specific work location, must the employer follow the Cal/OSHA regulations related to employer-provided transportation?
Yes. Transportation regulations apply any time the employer provides transportation.
What do the regulations say about an employer's responsibility for recording COVID-19 cases?
Employers are required to “keep a record of and track all COVID-19 cases.” Information that must be kept includes the employee’s name, contact information, occupation, location where the employee worked, the last day at the workplace and the date of a positive COVID-19 test.
This requirement applies to all businesses regardless of size and regardless of whether they also must adhere to Log 300 recording requirements.
Does the requirement that employers report to Cal/OSHA any serious COVID-19 cases apply only to cases that are work related, or does it apply to all serious cases?
Cal/OSHA requires employers to report any serious illness, serious injury or death of an employee that occurred in connection with work. The report must be made within eight hours of when the employer knew or should have known of the illness or injury. Cal/OSHA regulations state that a COVID-19 inpatient admission must be reported only if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of the incident and the incident means an exposure. In addition, OSHA mandates that fatalities must be reported only if they occur within 30 days of the exposure.
Cal/OSHA guidance advises employers to report all serious COVID-19 cases regardless of whether they are confirmed to be work related or not. Cal/OSHA is clear that reporting a serious illness is not an admission that it is work related, nor is it an admission of responsibility.
Are there any requirements for how training mandated by Cal/OSHA is provided?
No. It may be done in person, by video, webinar or other medium. It may be conducted by anyone knowledgeable about the training requirements, and there are no requirements for length. There are specific requirements for content.
How soon will businesses have to train employees?
The regulations aren’t specific about when training must occur, but we recommend it be done as soon as practicable and after the COVID-19 prevention program has been completed. A good practice would be to roll out the COVID-19 prevention program and combine it with the required training. There's no guidance or stated requirements about how long the training should be, who may conduct it or whether it must be repeated. Also, the regulations don’t define whether newly hired employees must be trained and, if so, how soon after hiring. A recording of the original training probably issufficient for new hires.