Cal/OSHA issued a draft COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) April 6 to potentially replace the current version, which expires May 5, 2022.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is scheduled to hear public comment on the proposed ETS, which would be the fourth version since Nov. 30, 2021, on April 21, 2022.
If approved, the proposed ETS would be in effect through Dec. 31, 2022.
So what’s changing under the new version? Law firm Littler Mendelson found seven things for California employers to take note of.
Vaccination status doesn’t matter
Employee vaccination status is no longer a functional part of the proposed ETS, which will apply to employees without regard to that status. Even the definition of “fully vaccinated” has been removed.
Any employee is now entitled to request a respirator for voluntary use and employers must offer testing to any employee who shows symptoms of COVID-19.
Close contact provisions would no longer depend on vaccination status under the new version of the ETS.
No set rules for close contact exclusions
The proposed ETS doesn’t have any set rules for close contact exclusion from the workplace and instead requires employers to review current California Department of Public Health guidance for quarantine measures.
This means the definition of “close contact” is subject to change by public health officials.
Littler Mendelson says this change offers flexibility for employers but also presents new enforcement issues since it’s so vague. This could “place too much discretion with Cal/OSHA inspectors to determine what is effective.”
Certain rules made more specific
Unlike the situation with close contact exclusion rules, the rules regarding COVID-19 case exclusion and return requirements have been made much more specific.
The substance of these requirements in the FAQ for the current Cal/OSHA ETS is codified in the proposed ETS, with some minor adjustments.
Example: The proposed language “clearly states under what circumstances to count exclusion periods from symptom onset versus test date.”
Acceptable tests broadened
The proposed ETS doesn’t restrict the types of COVID-19 tests that can be used for identifying COVID-19 cases or the type that can be made available to employees when required, including during outbreaks.
Restrictions on self-administered and self-read tests apply only to return-to-work criteria.
No more contaminated surfaces
The proposed ETS removed potentially contaminated surfaces and objects from the definition of “COVID-19 Hazard.”
All cleaning and disinfection requirements are removed from the proposed ETS, including the requirement to clean an area used by an employee who was found to have COVID-19.
Face coverings and light
The requirement to use face coverings that do not allow light to pass through was removed from the proposed ETS.
Take down the partitions
Provisions requiring use of cleanable solid partitions when social distancing can’t be maintained was removed from the proposed ETS.