The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly known as Cal/OSHA, continues to modify rules and guidance for businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. General industry and several industry-specific rules and guidelines have been modified. Recently, Cal/OSHA modified its rules and guidance on all employers’ obligation to establish and implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).
Under California law, employers must establish, implement and maintain an IIPP to protect employees from hazardous workplace conditions. The IIPP must be in writing, accessible to employees and contain several provisions including:
- Procedures for creating safe and healthful work practices;
- Procedures for identifying, evaluating and investigating workplace hazards, injuries and illnesses;
- Systems for communicating hazards to employees; and
- Employee training whenever the employer learns of a new or unrecognized hazard.
When COVID-19 infections started appearing, employers were required to determine if COVID-19 infection was a workplace hazard. Now that COVID-19 is a pandemic with widespread community exposure, employers must update their IIPPs with measures to control infection in the workplace.
Cal/OSHA instructs employers to follow applicable and relevant recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cal/OSHA references two CDC publications for employers to use when establishing infection prevention measures: Interim Guidance for Business and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself & Others.
In addition, Cal/OSHA has provided guidance on COVID-19-related employee training which includes the following components:
- Training provided in a language readily understood by all employees.
- General description of COVID-19, symptoms, when to seek medical attention, how to prevent its spread and the employer’s procedures for preventing its spread at the workplace.
- How an infected person can spread COVID-19 to others even if they are not sick.
- How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using cloth face covers, including:
- CDC guidelines that everyone should use cloth face covers when around other persons.
- How cloth face covers can help protect persons around the user when combined with physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.
- Information that cloth face covers are not protective equipment and don’t protect the person wearing a cloth face cover from COVID-19.
- Instructions on washing and sanitizing hands before and after using face coverings, which should be washed after each shift.
- Cough and sneeze etiquette.
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, after interacting with other persons and after contacting shared surfaces or objects.
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding sharing personal items with coworkers (i.e., dishes, cups, utensils, towels).
- Providing tissues, no-touch disposal trash cans and hand sanitizer for use by employees.
- Safely using cleaners and disinfectants, which includes:
- The hazards of the cleaners and disinfectants used at the worksite.
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) (such as gloves).
- Ensuring cleaners and disinfectants are used in a manner that does not endanger employees.
Employers may access the full general industry guidance on the Cal/OSHA website. Several additional guidelines for specific industries, such as agriculture, childcare and construction, can be viewed here. Employers who need to update their written IIPP should consult with legal counsel to ensure that it meets with the requirements under California law.
Access additional COVID-19-related HRWatchdog blogs, including other illness prevention-related blogs.