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Reviewing California’s COVID-19 Regulations

Toby Graham /
California state flag and N95 face mask. Concept of state and local government face covering mandate, order, requirement and social distancing during Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic

California is one of the states at the forefront of proactively developing regulations to address the pandemic. Regardless of where you operate, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on California regulations, as they often influence regulations across the country. With that in mind, here’s the latest on COVID-19 regulations in place or coming soon in California.

 AB 685 – COVID-19 Reporting

Taking effect January 1, 2021, AB 685 modifies occupational safety standards, requiring employers to provide notices and report COVID-19 exposures. In addition, Cal/OSHA will have expanded authority to enforce these requirements and ensure safe workplace operations. Cal/OSHA will gain the authority to immediately shut down your facility or part of your business if they detect an imminent hazard. AB 685 also accelerates Cal/OSHA’s citation process and allows the agency to issue a citation alleging a Serious Violation immediately.

There are a few things you can do to be prepared for this law.

  • Start by making sure your employees are trained on mask protocols, social distancing, and heat illness.
  • Post signs to limit capacity in small areas and enforce capacity limits.
  • Regularly service and maintain HVAC air filtration.
  • Continue daily cleaning and scheduled disinfections.
  • Promote proper handwashing and sanitation practices.
  • On warm days, accommodate employee ventilation needs. Explain to employees why fans are being used. On cool days, do not run fans.

California COVID-19 Resources
Check out this round-up of California COVID-19 regulations for employers navigating how to operate safely during the pandemic.

California COVID-19 Safety Standards

California adopted statewide COVID-19 workplace safety standards. As an employer, you are now liable for any noncompliance to COVID-19-related safety practices and standards. The final language states that all businesses are subject to the standards, with 3 exceptions:

  • Employees who are working from home.
  • The business has one employee and that person doesn’t interact with others.
  • Employees are already subject to CalOSHA’s aerosol transmission standard.

Otherwise, all businesses must develop and implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program. There are several components that must be included:

  • Communication systems
  • Identifying, evaluating, and addressing hazards
  • Investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases
  • Employee training
  • Social distancing requirements
  • Engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE
  • Reporting and recordkeeping
  • Return to work criteria

Additionally, businesses must:

  • Conduct a risk assessment and address any identified hazards.
  • Practice social distancing, wear face coverings, address and increase ventilation or outdoor air as much as possible.
  • In the event of a positive COVID-19 case that involved a possible workplace exposure, use contact tracing, notify, and provide testing to any employee who was possibly exposed to the virus.
  • Prohibit workers with COVID-19 or employees with a high risk of exposure from returning to work until the quarantine period ends. Employees must be paid during their quarantine.
  • Report outbreaks of 3 or more cases in a 2-week time period to the public health department.
  • Provide testing to all on-site employees. Testing must be conducted twice a week in the event of 20 or more cases in 30 days.
  • For employer-provided transportation, conduct health screenings before using the vehicle, employees must sit 3 feet apart, and wear face coverings.
  • For employer-provided housing, beds must be 6 feet apart, do not use bunk beds, and disinfect the areas daily.

CalOSHA is enforcing the standards through civil penalties that will vary based on the violation’s severity.

How Long Will This Last?

The emergency standards are effective for 180 days (or May 28, 2021), although they could be renewed twice, each time for 90 days.

What Should You Do?

We’ve put together a few initial recommendations:

  • Review the final language with your legal counsel to ensure you have a clear understanding of what is required of employers.
  • Review or draft your COVID-19 Prevention Program to ensure it covers all of the required components.
  • Conduct a Hazard Assessment. Review and audit your current practices, identify areas for improvement, and additional protocols you may need to implement.
  • Work and communicate with your employees about the importance of a safe work environment. Train them on the proper procedures you’ve put in place and any required training courses.

CalOSHA has developed several resources and guidance to help businesses address COVID-19.

Let KPA Help You

KPA can do all of this for you with our COVID-19 Safety Program. It’s intended to help you ensure compliance with California’s standards and help you stay on top of any future regulatory changes.

Learn more about the COVID-19 Safety Program by watching a short 4-minute video or schedule a time to learn more.

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