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July 20, 2020
Cal/OSHA urges employers to follow COVID-19 guidance

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) urged the state’s employers to carefully review and follow the agency’s guidelines on protecting employees from COVID-19 infections. An expanded statewide order on indoor closures was issued July 13 by California’s Statewide Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The expanded closure orders, which includes some offices, were issued in response to an increased number of COVID-19 cases.

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 currently is widespread in most U.S. communities and considered a workplace hazard. The new public health order reestablishes the state’s stay-at-home order with exceptions for maintaining critical infrastructure sectors.

“We’ve designed guidance documents for more than 30 industries so employers have a roadmap,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in an agency statement.

The state’s Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) standard applies to correctional facilities, coroners and mortuaries, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and public services. Other employers have obligations to implement effective measures to train and protect employees at each worksite. Those obligations include compliance with the state’s injury and illness prevention plan standard. Cal/OSHA’s guidelines are intended to help the state’s employers meet their obligations.

Employers must take steps to:

  • Screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms before they start work;
  • Have workers stay home if they feel ill and inform them about sick leave benefits;
  • Modify work or the worksite to allow people to be at least six feet apart or install effective barriers where that is not feasible;
  • Encourage workers to wash their hands frequently in accordance with CDC guidelines, and provide enough time and supplies so they can do it properly;
  • Provide employees with cloth face coverings or allow them to use their own and reimburse them for the cost; and
  • Provide workers enough time and supplies to disinfect common surfaces.

Employers in businesses that interact with the public also must follow the latest public health orders and ensure a safe establishment to protect both customers and workers. Under the latest public health order, both customers and employees should use cloth face coverings.

The public health order closes bars, breweries, brewpubs, and pubs statewide, as well as cardrooms, dine-in restaurants, family entertainment centers and movie theaters, indoor attractions at museums and zoos, and wineries and tasting rooms.

In counties on CDPH’s “monitoring list,” offices for non-critical infrastructure sectors are closed along with barbershops and hair salons, fitness centers and gyms, malls, massage parlors, nail salons, and tattoo parlors. The County Monitoring List includes those counties that show concerning levels of disease transmission, hospitalizations, insufficient testing, or other critical epidemiological markers over a 14-day period.

As of July 13, 32 of California’s 58 counties were on the monitoring list.

California’s Interim General Guidelines on Protecting Workers from COVID-19 were last updated May 14.

“Protecting employees from workplace hazards is not only required by law, it is also the right thing to do and an essential part of stopping the spread of the virus,” Parker said.

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