On Jan. 8, Cal/OSHA updated its FAQs on the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) that took effect on Nov. 30. Of note for hospitals, Cal/OSHA added two new questions that help to reconcile the scope of the ETS with the Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard.
Since the ETS was proposed in October, CHA has been advocating that all hospital employees are covered by the ATD Standard and, therefore, the ETS does not apply to hospitals and their employees, as well as other employers covered by the ATD Standard.
FAQ 6 and 7 — which are both new — provide Cal/OSHA’s guidance on how a hospital may determine whether the ETS or the ATD Standard applies to its employees. In FAQ 6, Cal/OSHA clarifies that one employee in a single workplace cannot be subject to both the ETS and the ATD Standard at different times.
More importantly, FAQ 7 poses the question as to whether an employer covered by the ATD Standard can deem all employees on site be covered by the ATD Standard and exempt from the ETS. The answer to that question is yes – “if the employer provides all employees with protections under its ATD Exposure Control Plan and has incorporated those employees into the plan in accordance with section 5199 because they have an occupational exposure to COVID-19, then those employees would not be subject to the ETS.”
However, Cal/OSHA continues to maintain that a hospital may be covered by both the ATD Standard and the ETS. A hospital can avoid that result by ensuring that its ATD Plan provides all employees with protection and has incorporated those employees into the plan in accordance with the ATD Standard. If a hospital’s ATD Plan does not make that clear, Cal/OSHA will expect the hospital to have both an ATD Plan and comply with the ETS.
The updated FAQs came after an Advisory Committee meeting was held on Dec 18. Cal/OSHA has stated it will continue to update the FAQs as needed in the future.