California has adopted an emergency standard to address the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace after the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved Cal/OSHA’s proposed rule.
The board approved the standard Nov. 19, but the regulation didn’t go into effect until Dec. 1.
While healthcare workers are protected from the coronavirus and other diseases under California’s 2009 state law governing infectious airborne illnesses, the emergency standard will apply to all other employers.
The new rules require employers to create written COVID-19 policies addressing hazards specific to the workplace, according to the LA Times.
Face coverings and other PPE must also be provided by employers for their workers at no cost to the employee.
Employers are required to provide free COVID-19 testing in the event of an outbreak, which the standard defines as three or more cases in the workplace within a two-week period.
Existing state mandates regarding the coronavirus were adapted to reinforce those guidelines, including the requirement to timely notify health officials, Cal/OSHA and affected workers should an employee get a positive test result.
The standard does not offer recommendations for specific ventilation requirements in the workplace, but it does acknowledge research confirming airborne transmission of COVID-19.
Worker advocacy groups feel the regulation is a step in the right direction, but “business interests argued against the proposal’s passage, calling the process ‘rushed’ and the provisions duplicative and burdensome,” according to the LA Times story.
The emergency standard will likely remain in place for six months.
However, state officials are expected to form a committee to consider whether the standard should be permanently adopted as a precautionary measure for future pandemics.
California would be the third state to adopt such a standard, following Virginia and Oregon.