On Nov. 19, the California Occupational Safety and Health Board (Cal/OSHA) adopted an emergency temporary standard (ETS) focused on COVID-19 in the workplace. This new, extremely broad regulation is in addition to the employee notice requirements encompassed in Assembly Bill (AB) 685, COVID supplemental paid sick leave adopted in AB 1867, and Senate Bill 1159’s workers’ compensation presumption requirements.
Before it goes into effect, the standard must be approved by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and was expected to be filed on Nov. 20. OAL has 10 days to review the regulatory package. If approved, it would go into effect when it is filed with the Secretary of State and would remain in effect for 180 days unless it is extended.
Cal/OSHA committed to convene an Advisory Committee as soon as possible to begin to address the numerous issues raised by the employer community during the eight-hour hearing.
While the regulation is intended to cover workplaces that are not covered by California’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard (8 C.C.R. 5199), the language of the ETS has caused some confusion over its application to hospital employees and other facilities covered by the ATD Standard. This includes but is not limited to skilled-nursing facilities, medical offices, and home health. CHA raised this concern at the hearing, both in writing and orally, but it was not addressed. CHA will continue to advocate on that issue and is optimistic it will be resolved, as the scope of the ATD Standard expressly covers all hospital employees, so they should not be covered by the ETS.
While hospital and health system employers are likely already complying with much of this new regulation, numerous provisions are concerning, including a broad COVID-19 testing obligation, paid leave, work exclusion, and special provisions pertaining to “outbreaks” and “major outbreaks.” CHA joined the comments submitted by CalChamber and will continue to collaborate with CalChamber in its advocacy efforts.