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December 03, 2020
Cal/OSHA COVID-19 rules take effect

California’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) for workplace coronavirus disease 2019 (COVD-19) exposures became effective following a November 30 approval by the state’s Office of Administrative Law. The standard applies to workplaces in California not covered by the state’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard.

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The four temporary state standards in California, Michigan, Oregon, and Virginia could provide models for a federal COVID-19 standard if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under President-Elect Joe Biden decides to pursue one.

California’s rule is being administered and will be enforced by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). Cal/OSHA already has posted a one-page fact sheet about the rule and a model COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP) to help employers with compliance. Cal/OSHA also is preparing industry-specific webinars, beginning with the agriculture, food processing, and food service and restaurant industries. When dates and times become available, the agency will post the schedule on its website.

Cal/OSHA also plans to hold a stakeholder meeting this month that will include industry and labor representatives to review requirements of the emergency regulation and accept any feedback or recommend updates; the agency has not yet announced a date, time, or access instructions.

“We understand the need to educate and assist employers as they implement the new provisions of the emergency standards,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in an agency statement.

“For employers who need time to fully implement the regulations, enforcement investigators will take their good faith efforts to implement the emergency standards into consideration,” Parker continued. “However, aspects such as eliminating hazards and implementing testing requirements during an outbreak are essential.”

The emergency regulations require that employers implement a site-specific written COVID-19 prevention program, addressing COVID-19 health hazards, correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and providing face coverings. In addition to the prevention program rule, there are separate regulations for multiple COVID-19 infections and major outbreaks in the workplace or at a worksite. Employers must provide COVID-19 testing and notify local public health departments of cases of COVID-19, as well as positive test results in asymptomatic cases. The regulations also require accurate recordkeeping and reporting of COVID-19 cases. There also are regulations for employer-provided housing and transportation.

Ex-OSHA administrator joins Biden COVID-19 board

Dr. David Michaels, former assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health during the Obama administration, has joined the COVID-19 board advising Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on the pandemic. Michaels is an epidemiologist who was the longest-serving administrator in OSHA’s history, according to the Biden-Harris transition team.

The transition team also added Jane Hopkins, a nurse and labor union official, and Dr. Jill Jim, executive director at the Navajo Nation Department of Health to the board. The National Safety Council (NSC) had advocated for adding an occupational safety and health expert to the board that initially only included physicians and public health officials.

During Michaels’ term as OSHA administrator, the agency began an infectious disease rulemaking but did not complete it. The rulemaking was later removed from the Labor Department’s regulatory agenda.

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