Changes to the Cal OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

June 18, 2021

Changes to the Cal OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

Following the June 17 vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt the revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to allow the revisions to immediately take effect on June 17. The revised regulations reflect the state’s latest COVID-19 public health guidance.

Here are just some of the key revisions:

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear them. Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors. For persons vaccinated outside the United States, a vaccine will be valid if listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • Employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.
  • Upon request, employers shall provide respirators for voluntary use in compliance with subsection 5144(c)(2) to all employees who are not fully vaccinated and who are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person, at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • Physical distancing requirements have been eliminated except where an employer determines there is a hazard and for certain employees during major outbreaks.
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to be offered testing or excluded from work after close contact unless they have COVID-19 symptoms. This also extends to employees if they had COVID-19 within the last 90 days and have remained symptom-free.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms must be offered testing by their employer.
  • Employees may bring a wage claim to recover unpaid “continued earnings” when excluded from the workplace. The revisions also specify that employees must be paid their regular rate of pay by the next regular pay day.
  • After providing written notice of a COVID-19 case in the workplace, employers will be required to provide “verbal notice” if they reasonably know that an employee has not received the written notice or has limited literacy in the language in which the written notice was provided.
  • Employers must review the Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.
  • Employer-provided housing and transportation are exempt from the regulations where all employees are fully vaccinated.

In addition to the above, other revisions include modifications to key definitions, newly imposed training requirements, and other updates. The revised standard should be reviewed in detail.  

Next steps:

  • Review the revised standard
  • Register and attend a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) Update webinar hosted by Cal/OSHA Consultation. 
  • If you haven’t already, carefully determine how you are going to confidentially document vaccination status in the workplace with the help of legal counsel.
  • Evaluate your supply of N95 respirators
    • Businesses seeking assistance to provide N95 respirators for unvaccinated employees as required by the revised Emergency Temporary Standards can find distribution locations for a one month supply of state provided N95 respirators here. Distribution details are still developing. Check back regularly for updates.
    • In addition, Cal/OSHA lists some but not all vendors that sell N95 respirators in large quantities (vendors able to fulfill orders of more than 100,000 units). There are many vendors who have N95s available in smaller quantities.
  • Update your written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP), training, and internal procedures.  

We will continue to closely monitor developments and communicate any additional explanation, resources, and tools as they become available. Please reach out to our office for any questions relating to workplace safety or Cal OSHA compliance.