Although most experts say that COVID-19 is here to stay, California’s employment-related emergency regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are winding down. As most employers are aware, on December 31, 2022, California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave ordinance expired and was not renewed or extended.
Also, on December 15, 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to adopt non-emergency COVID-19 prevention regulations. These regulations will replace the current emergency regulations (emergency temporary standards). The new regulations will take effect once they are approved by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) sometime this month (January 2023). Once adopted, the new non-emergency COVID-19 regulations will remain in effect for two years after the effective date, except for the recordkeeping subsections, which will remain in effect for three years.
What requirements will remain in place?
The proposed regulations include some of the same requirements found in the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). For example, employers will still have to provide hazard prevention training, identify COVID-19 hazards and try to mitigate transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, investigate and respond to COVID-19 cases and close contacts, make testing available at no cost when there is an outbreak or following a close contact at work, notify employees of COVID-19 in the workplace, and maintain records.
Employers will still have to exclude workers if they are an infection risk, but there will be no requirement to pay workers who are off work – instead, employers will need to notify workers about any COVID-19 or other leaves available under law or the employer’s policy or contract.
So, what will change?
A few key changes to the proposed regulations include the following:
- Employers will only need to provide face coverings when CDPH requires their use, and provide respirators upon request.
- Employers will not have to report outbreaks to local governmental agencies, instead, only “major” outbreaks will have to be reported to Cal/OSHA.
- “Close Contacts” will be redefined based on whether the workplace is smaller or larger than 400,000 cubic feet.
- A standalone COVID-19 Prevention Plan will no longer be required – instead, employers will need to address the COVID-19 health hazard and their procedures to prevent it, as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP).
The revised standards will, hopefully, make it easier for employers to provide protections to workers as COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities, and allow for flexibility if changes are made to guidance in the future from the California Department of Public Health.