The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is still considering whether it should adopt a proposed COVID-19 Permanent Standard to replace the state’s current emergency standard.
On Sept. 15, the board held a public hearing to discuss replacing the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard, which will expire Dec. 31, 2022, with the proposed COVID-19 Permanent Standard.
The hearing “resulted in more questions being asked than answered, and no action on the proposed Permanent Standard was taken by the board at the meeting,” according to law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton.
The board will likely vote on the Permanent Standard at its Dec. 15, 2022, meeting.
Unnecessary burden or lacking in sufficient worker protections?
Public comment at the hearing focused on how necessary the Permanent Standard is considering the:
- current state of COVID-19 in California and the rest of the U.S.
- burden it places on employers, and
- level of protection it provides to employees.
Employers see the Permanent Standard as an unnecessary burden while workers would like to see more safeguards put in place than are currently offered.
During the hearing, employers voiced concerns about the Permanent Standard’s:
- seemingly arbitrary two-year duration
- failure to account for the possible decline in COVID-19 cases
- requirement to continue contact tracing despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statements regarding the ineffectiveness of contact tracing, and
- insufficient definitions, such as the revised definition for “close contact” which is more discretionary and places a higher burden on employers.
Labor representatives are mostly in favor of the Permanent Standard, but opposed the elimination of certain protections, including a requirement for employers to provide exclusion pay to employees excluded from the workplace due to COVID-19.