In late November, the California Occupational Safety and Health Board (OSHSB) 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. The ETS was filed with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on Nov. 20 and was approved on Nov. 30. The ETS took effect immediately, and Cal/OSHA has developed frequently asked questions that are available on its website.
While the regulation is intended to cover workplaces that are not covered by California’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) 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 with Cal/OSHA in advance of the hearing as well as during the OSHSB hearing, both in writing and orally, but it was not addressed. It was also raised with OAL. CHA will continue to advocate on that issue and is cautiously 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 the ETS could cover some hospital and health system workplaces that are not covered by the ATD Standard, health care employers are likely already complying with much of this new regulation. However, several provisions are concerning, including a broad COVID-19 testing obligation, paid leave, work exclusion, and special provisions pertaining to “outbreaks” and “major outbreaks.” 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 OSHSB hearing.