October 2021 – WORKPLACE SAFETY- Permanent COVID-19 Standard Coming Soon


CAL/OSHA has taken the first step towards creating a semi-permanent COVID-19 standard to replace the emergency temporary standard that currently governs workplace coronavirus prevention measures in the state.

 

On Sept. 17, Cal/OSHA released a discussion draft for permanent COVID-19 regulations to give stakeholders the chance to comment on it before it starts work on writing the regs.  Even though they are “permanent,” the rules would be subject to renewal after two years from the effective date or they would expire if the threat has receded by that time.

Elements of the draft standard

Here’s what the draft standard would do:
Follow CDPH rules – Required that employers follow California Department of Public Health COVID-19 prevention orders.
Masks for unvaxxed staff – Unvaccinated staff must wear masks. Employers must provide masks when the CDPH requires them.
Outbreak rules – During an outbreak in the workplace, all staff would be required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status. Employers would need to provide respirators during major outbreaks to all employees.
No COVID-19 Prevention Plan – Employers would not need to have a COVID-19 Prevention Plan, as required in the temporary emergency standard. Instead, they would be required to address COVID-19 prevention strategies in their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan.
Masks for at-risk staff – Require employers to provide N95 respirators to employees who have been identified by a doctor as being at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status.
‘Fully vaccinated’ defined – Define a “fully vaccinated employee” to mean that the employer has a copy of their vaccination record that includes the vaccine maker and date of the last dose.
Retaining records – Require employers to keep COVID-19 vaccination records for two years after the period requiring them to keep the records ends. That means if the rule sunsets in a few years, employers would be required to keep those records for another two years.
Testing rules – Require that employers provide COVID-19 testing to all employees who have come into close contact with another team member who has tested positive for the virus. Testing must be provided at no cost to the employee.
No paid leave for infected staff – Eliminate the provision for paid leave for workers who contract the coronavirus.
Handwashing and cleaning – Eliminate rules regarding handwashing and cleaning and disinfecting procedures in the workplace.

The takeaway

If you have been following Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standard, you should continue to follow the current requirements. The new rules simplify the emergency standard, particularly concerning the requirement that COVID-19 prevention plans can be included in your IIPP rather than in a separate document.