1. I've heard the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for COVID-19 prevention have been revised. What's changed?
Yes, Cal/OSHA revised their COVID-19 ETS, which became effective June 17, 2021, due to an executive order from Governor Newsom. Here is a summary of some of the changes:
- No longer required to be worn by vaccinated employees except during outbreak scenarios and where required by CDPH: K-12 schools, public transit, cooling/homeless centers, healthcare/long-term care settings, correctional facilities
- Not required for working outdoors for any employee, but still recommended for unvaccinated people that cannot maintain 6' of separation from others
- Still required for unvaccinated employees working indoors or in vehicles with certain exceptions like if they are alone in a room/vehicle, eating in a well-ventilated area 6' from others, etc.
- Definition of a face covering now includes respirators worn voluntarily
- Must be provided to any employee upon request, regardless of vaccination status
- Must provide respirator (N95 typically but could be other types) for voluntary use upon request to unvaccinated employees working indoors or in vehicles and in outbreak scenarios
- No longer required
- Evaluate need to implement during outbreaks
- Required during major outbreaks if employees are not wearing fit-tested respirators
- Must make available at no cost and during paid working hours to unvaccinated employees with symptoms or a workplace exposure to a COVID-19 case.
- Vaccinated employees only get tested if they had close contact with a COVID-19 case and have symptoms or during major outbreaks
- Fully vaccinated or COVID cases that have recovered in the last 90 days do not need to excluded after close contact if they don't have symptoms
Requirements from the original ETS like a written program, completing a comprehensive hazard assessment, two-way communication, and training (with some additional topics added) are still required.
Cal/OSHA has published some FAQs about the revision.
2. Which employers are subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 regulations?
The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) applies to all employees and places of employment in California, EXCEPT in the following instances:
- Work locations with one employee who does not have contact with other persons
- Employees working from home
- Employees with workplace exposures covered under the Aerosol-Transmissible Disease Standard (8CCR5199), such as healthcare and hospital employees
- Employees teleworking from a remote location that is not under the control of the employer
Also, note that nothing in the ETS is intended to limit more protective or restrictive state or local health department mandates or guidance.
3. Do I have to have a COVID-19 Prevention Program, and what must be included?
All employers covered by the regulation must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Program. There are specific requirements for the COVID-19 Prevention Program that employers must follow. The COVID-19 Prevention Plan must cover:
- A system for communicating with employees about COVID-19
- A system for reporting, identifying, and evaluating COVID-19 hazards in the workplace
- A plan for investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases in the workplace
- A plan for correcting COVID-19 hazards in the workplace
- A training and instruction program for employees regarding COVID-19 in the workplace, including information on access to covid-19 testing and vaccination
- A plan for providing face coverings for employees in the workplace
- A plan for other engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment, including provision of respirators for voluntary use for unvaccinated employees
- A plan for reporting, recordkeeping, and access to records regarding COVID-19 in the workplace
- A plan for exclusion of COVID-19 cases and employees who have had close contact with a COVID case from the workplace
- Return to work criteria
- Special practices and requirements for multiple COVID cases and outbreaks in the workplace.
- (If applicable) Special practices and requirements for employer-provided housing and employer-provided transportation.
4. Does my COVID-19 Prevention Program have to be in writing?
5. Does my COVID-19 Prevention Program have to be a separate document, or can it be included in the IIPP?
It can be integrated into existing programs like an IIPP or be a stand-alone document.
6. When must we report COVID-19 cases, and to whom do we make the reports?
Three different COVID-19 reporting requirements may apply to a business with one or more COVID-19 cases, depending on the circumstances.
- Cal/OSHA has a requirement to report fatalities or serious illnesses to the nearest Cal/OSHA district office within 8 hours of learning of the fatality or illness meeting the reporting criteria. For serious illnesses like COVID-19, this would be any illness that requires inpatient hospitalization. For these reports, the fatality or illness must be work-related. Employers must immediately report COVID-19 related serious injuries or deaths.
- There are requirements to report to the local health department whenever there are three or more COVID-19 cases at the same worksite within a 14-day period. These requirements come from Assembly Bill (AB) 685.
- For businesses with five or more employees, there is a requirement to report any employee positive case to your workers' compensation carrier. This requirement comes from Senate Bill (SB) 1159.
7. What records must I maintain under these regulations?
Employers must keep the following documents and records:
- The written COVID-19 Prevention Program
- Records of the steps taken to implement the written COVID-19 Prevention Program
- Records of scheduled and periodic inspections required to identify unsafe conditions and work practices, including person(s) conducting the inspection, the unsafe conditions and work practices that have been identified, and action taken to correct the identified unsafe conditions and work practices. These records shall be kept for at least one (1) year
- Safety and health training records for each employee, including employee name or other identifier, training dates, type(s) of training, and training providers. This documentation shall be maintained for at least one (1) year.
- A record of all COVID-19 cases with the employee's name, contact information, occupation, location where the employee worked, the date of the last day at the workplace, and the date of a positive COVID-19 test.
8. The regulation says I have to describe how employees with medical or other conditions that put them at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness can request accommodations. What resources are available to help with this?)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a webpage with answers to common questions about accommodating employees at increased risk for COVID-19 while complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In discussing accommodation requests, employers and employees may find it helpful to consult the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website for types of accommodations. JAN's website has materials specific to COVID-19.
9. What sort of conditions put someone at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness?
There are a number of conditions that put people at higher risk, such as heart or lung conditions and diabetes. Please visit the CDC's site for the full list and more information.
10. Can we require a doctor's note verifying the person has a condition that puts them at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness?
As with any accommodation request, employers may ask questions to determine whether the condition is a disability and discuss with the employee how the requested accommodation would help them keep working. The employer should always engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee. The interactive process is an open dialog between the employee and employer to gather information such as:
- Physical limitations
- Work restrictions
- Ability to perform essential function
- Possible accommodations to help the employee do the job
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not interfere with employers following recommendations by the CDC or other public health authorities.
- What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws
- Transcript of EEOC March 27, 2020, Outreach Webinar
11. What if an employee has an illness or condition other than COVID-19 that causes COVID-19 symptoms? How do I handle that?
The Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) 8CCR3205 requires employers to have a process in place to respond to employee reports of COVID-19 symptoms. During this pandemic, employers are allowed to ask questions about symptoms of COVID-19 illness to determine if the employee presents a risk to the workplace. Employers should ask whether the symptoms are NEW and not caused by any other known condition, such as allergies or chronic lung disease. If the symptoms are new and unexplained by a chronic condition, the employee should be separated from other people and sent home. Employers must make testing available at no cost and during paid working hours to unvaccinated employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
The ETS also requires employers to describe how employees with conditions that may put them at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness can request an accommodation. Personal medical information disclosed when requesting an accommodation must be kept confidential and in a file separate from employee personnel records.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has guidance regarding screening procedures, reasonable accommodations, confidentiality, and discrimination.
12. How can we keep medical records secure and confidential?
The ADA requires that all medical information about a particular employee be stored separately from the employee's personnel file, thus limiting access to this confidential information. An employer may store all medical information related to COVID-19 in existing medical files. This includes an employee's statement that he has the disease or suspects he has the disease, or the employer's notes or other documentation from questioning an employee about symptoms.
13. What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting in the Cal/OSHA regulation revised June 17, 2021?
Under the revised standard, routine cleaning is required for high touch surfaces and in high traffic areas, but the only time you need to disinfect something is if a COVID-19 case has been in contact with it in the last 24 hours.
Cleaning is performed using a detergent or soap to remove dirt and organic material from a surface. Germs like coronavirus might not be killed, but cleaning may remove some of the germs and reduce the overall risk of exposure to germs. Disinfectants are chemicals that have been tested by the manufacturer and proven to kill certain germs on specific surfaces when used as directed on the label. All disinfectants approved for use in the United States have an EPA registration number visible on the product label and there is a list of EPA approved disinfectants for COVID-19. Employers must maintain Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for any disinfectant used in the workplace, and they must assure that employees only use the disinfectant as directed by the manufacturer. The CDC provides additional information about the difference between cleaning and disinfecting.
14. Doesn't intense heat kill the virus? Would a closed-up trailer full of work tools need disinfecting after work if it's hot outside? What about sunlight as a disinfectant?
An important principle of disinfection is concentration and contact time. You need a certain amount of disinfectant for a certain period of time for it to work effectively. The exact temperature needed to eliminate the COVID-19 virus is currently unknown. Ultraviolet (UV) light is also effective at killing viruses, but exposure to UV light is dangerous to humans, so sunlight is not a good disinfectant.
As more has been learned about how the coronavirus is spread, the risk of transmission from a contaminated object is considered low. It is now recommended to practice routine cleaning, which would include between users of shared tools. Disinfection is only required if tools or equipment were used within the past 24-hours by a COVID-19 case.
15. Any recommendations for disinfecting items that can't be washed, like books or fabrics?
Under the revised standard, the only time you need to disinfect the room or materials is if a COVID-19 case has had contact with them in the last 24 hours. So the easiest way to deal with difficult to disinfect items is to not use them for 24 hours.
The CDC has issued guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting your home and your workplace. The Environmental Protection Agency has released a list of registered cleaning products that meet its criteria for killing coronavirus.
16. It's difficult for us to provide handwashing facilities for our employees, particularly those who travel to different locations. Is hand sanitizer an acceptable substitute?
Yes, hand sanitizer can be used to kill coronavirus on hands as long as it has at least 60% alcohol and is used correctly. Follow the label instructions to make sure you use the correct amount of hand sanitizer. Be sure to spread the sanitizer all over the hand, including fingertips, thumbs, between fingers and around fingernails, and then rub it in until it dries. Be sure the hand sanitizer you provide does not contain methyl alcohol/methanol.
If your hands are dirty or oily, hand sanitizers do not work as well. You may want to use the sanitizer and a towel to help remove the dirt and oil, and then apply the sanitizer again.
Never use disinfectant cleaning wipes on skin unless they are made for use on human skin. Always read and follow the instructions of the product label.
- Frequently asked questions about hand sanitizer (CDC)
- Guidance on handwashing and use of hand sanitizers (CDC)
17. Do I have to provide face coverings at no cost for my employees?
Yes. The regulations require employers to provide face coverings. Employers must also ensure that they are worn by unvaccinated employees over the nose and mouth when indoors and in vehicles, and by all employees where required by orders from the California Department of Public Health or a local health department.
"Face covering" means a surgical mask, a medical procedure mask, a respirator worn voluntarily, or a tightly woven fabric or non-woven material of at least two layers. A face covering has no visible holes or openings and must cover the nose and mouth. A face covering does not include a scarf, ski mask, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar, or single layer of fabric.
18. Are there exceptions to the face covering requirement for unvaccinated employees?
In the following situations, face coverings are not required for unvaccinated employees:
- When an employee is alone in a room or vehicle.
- While eating and drinking at the workplace, but employees must stay at least six feet apart. If indoors, employers should open windows and doors to increase outside airflow as much as possible in eating areas.
- By employees wearing employer required respiratory protection in accordance with section 5144.
- During specific tasks that cannot be performed with a face covering. This exception is limited to the time period when such tasks are actually being performed.
- Employees who cannot wear face coverings due to a medical or mental health condition or disability, or who are hearing-impaired or communicating with a hearing-impaired person. However, the employer must provide an effective non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom.
19. What if an unvaccinated employee cannot wear a face covering because of a mental or physical condition?
Employees who cannot wear a traditional face covering should wear an effective non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom, if their condition or disability permits it.,
20. What if an unvaccinated employee cannot wear a face covering or a face shield with a drape?
If an employee cannot wear a face covering, face shield with a drape or other effective alternative, or respiratory protection, for any reason, then they must be kept at least six feet apart from all other persons unless the unmasked employee is tested at least weekly for COVID-19. Employers may not use COVID-19 testing as an alternative to face coverings when face coverings are otherwise required.
21. Do I have to require members of the public to wear face coverings on my premises?
In general, no, but certain industries still require masks for customers. Consult your local health department and keep the following in mind:
- Employers are responsible for protecting employees from those not wearing face coverings, including members of the public.
Employers are required to communicate to non-employees the face mask policy in effect on the worksite.
22. What if the nature of our work does not allow for physical distancing at all times?
As of the revision to the ETS effective June 17, 2021, physical distancing is no longer required in the workplace except during major outbreaks.
23. What is the recommended method for removing coronavirus from the air in an indoor space?
The CDC recommends using the safest method that is effective. The use of disinfectant fogs, mists, and sprays to disinfect air indoors can pose hazards to humans and the environment. Safer methods of diluting or filtering out the virus in the air should be used instead of spraying chemicals into the air. To reduce the risk of airborne coronavirus, the CDC has directed employers to follow guidelines set by ASHRAE for building ventilation systems. The EPA has also published guidance on the use of HEPA filtration and other methods for cleaning indoor air.
In June 2021, Cal/OSHA revised the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard to require employers to use the highest level of MERV filter feasible for mechanical ventilation systems and to evaluate whether portable HEPA filtration units can be used to reduce the risk of virus exposure in indoor spaces. In addition to the CDC and EPA guidance, employers are directed to consult Interim Guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments that has been published online by CDPH.
24. What should we do with our HVAC system? Any special cleaning or filters that should be used?
When evaluating HVAC systems to prevent COVID-19 transmission, the ETS standard requires employers to review applicable orders and guidance from the state and local health departments. The standard references the California Department of Public Health, Interim Guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments. An additional useful reference recommended by the CDC is the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Increase outside air ventilation
- Disable demand control ventilation
- Further open minimum outdoor air dampers, as high as 100%, thus eliminating recirculation
- Improve central air filtration to the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack, and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass
- Keep systems running longer hours, if possible 24/7, to enhance the effects of improving your filtration and reducing recirculation
- Consider portable room air cleaners with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters
- Consider consulting a qualified UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation) consultant to install a system that protects occupants from radiation, particularly in high-risk spaces such as waiting rooms, prisons, and shelters
If you are not responsible for maintaining or servicing your ventilation system, provide the guidance in the links above to your contractor or building manager and ask what options are feasible for your particular system.
25. How is the term "fully vaccinated" defined in the Emergency Regulations?
"Fully vaccinated" means the employer has documented that the person received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines must be FDA approved, have an emergency use authorization from the FDA, or, for persons fully vaccinated outside the United States, be listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
26. Can a California employer require an employee to be vaccinated for COVID-19?
Federal law allows an employer to exclude unvaccinated employees from the physical workplace. However, the employer must consider requests for reasonable accommodation as per the American’s with Disabilities Act and related laws. Under the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers can exclude an employee from the workplace that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals at the workplace. Unless a COVID-19 vaccination policy tends to screen out disabled employees, employers may require that their employees get vaccinated to remove the direct threat of unvaccinated employees exposing other employees to the coronavirus. Reasonable accommodations must be provided to employees that cannot be vaccinated due to a disability or a sincerely held religious practice or belief. Where reasonable accommodations are not possible, the employer can lawfully exclude an unvaccinated employee from the physical workplace.
We recommend you review the full text of the guidance provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. See section K for vaccine-related questions.
Also, CDC provides direction for employers that offer or require vaccines to employees.
27. How does the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) apply to employees who have been vaccinated?
Cal/OSHA revised their Emergency Temporary Standards in June 2021. Included in the revision are the following provisions for fully vaccinated employees:
- Are not required to wear a face covering unless part of an exposed group during an outbreak or when required by orders from CDPH. During a major outbreak, fully vaccinated employees would be required to wear a face covering when indoors, or when outdoors and less than 6' from another person unless an exception listed in subsection 3205(c)(6)(D) applies.
- Do not need to be provided testing or be excluded from the workplace after close contact with a COVID-19 case unless the vaccinated employee has symptoms.
- Must be provided a face covering upon request.
- Must be provided testing if part of an exposed group in a major outbreak.
For more details of changes that apply to vaccinated employees, see: Revisions to the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions
28. How do HIPAA or workplace laws apply when asking employees about their COVID-19 vaccination status?
HIPAA, the American's with Disabilities Act, and other workplace laws do not prohibit employers from asking employees about their vaccination status.
HIPAA applies only to "covered entities," including health plans, most health care providers, and health care clearinghouses. This means these entities cannot disclose health information without the individual's consent. Employees can disclose information about themselves, but their employer cannot get that information directly from a covered entity without the employee's consent.
With respect to the Americans' with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that asking vaccination status is not a disability-related inquiry as long as the question is not targeted at specific employees only and there is no follow-up question of "Why not?" to a negative response.
Cal/OSHA has stated in its vaccine FAQs that in an effort to encourage documentation of vaccination status they will not enforce the 30-year record retention for COVID-19 vaccine records. The vaccine FAQs also provide guidance on how to document employee vaccine status.
29. What needs to be covered in the employee training?
Employee training must cover:
- The employer's COVID-19 policies and procedures to protect employees from COVID-19 hazards.
- Information about COVID-19-related leave benefits to which the employee may be entitled under federal, state, or local laws. Some of these benefits are:
- Workers' compensation law
- The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Local governmental requirements
- The employer's own leave policies
- Leave guaranteed by contract
- Information about COVID-19 including what it is, what the symptoms are, and how it spreads, emphasizing the fact that infectious particles can remain suspended in the air for hours and after the infected person has left the area.
- The fact that particles containing the virus can travel more than six feet, especially indoors, so physical distancing must be combined with other controls, including face coverings and hand hygiene, to be effective.
- Employer policies for providing respirators, the right of employees who are not fully vaccinated to request one for voluntary use, how to use the respirator properly, how facial hair can affect the respirator's seal to the face making it less protective, and the health risks posed by voluntary respirator use.
- The importance of frequent hand washing:
- Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds.
- If a sink or handwashing facility is not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Hand sanitizer does not work if the hands are soiled.
- Proper use of face coverings and the difference between a respirator and face coverings, including emphasis on the fact that face coverings are source control meant to contain infectious particles and protect others while respirators are meant to protect the wearer from exposure to the virus.
- The importance of not coming to work and obtaining a COVID-19 test if an employee has COVID-19 symptoms, and the importance of vaccination against COVID-19.
- Information on the importance of being vaccinated, the employer's COVID-19 policies, and how to access COVID-19 testing and vaccination.
- Conditions under which face coverings are required in the workplace and that they are recommended outdoors for employees who are not vaccinated and cannot maintain 6' of separation from other people. Employees can request face coverings from the employer at no cost and can wear them at work without fear of retaliation.
30. How can I find out about available testing options for my workplace?
We recommend that you contact your local health department to find out options for testing in your local area.
The California Department of Public Health maintains a directory of local health departments.
31. Testing is limited in my area. Are test kits by mail an acceptable method of testing employees?
Tests must be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA to diagnose current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The test must also be administered in accordance with the FDA approval or the FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
The FDA maintains a list of current test kits, including home collection kits with Emergency Use Authorizations.
32. What are the Return to Work requirements for employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are subject to a local health department to isolate?
COVID-19 cases (employees who test positive for COVID-19, has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care professional, or are directed to isolate by a local health department) with COVID-19 symptoms cannot return to work until:
- At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4°F or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications, and
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved, and
- At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.
COVID-19 cases which tested positive but never developed COVID-19 symptoms cannot return to work until a minimum of 10 days has passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive COVID-19 test.
A negative COVID-19 test cannot be required for a COVID-19 case to return to work if the applicable return to work criteria above has been met.
If a local or state health official tells an employee, they must isolate or quarantine at home, and then the employee cannot return to work until the period of isolation or quarantine is completed or the order is lifted. If no period was specified, then the applicable return to work criteria for cases or close contacts must be followed.
If no violations of local or state health officer orders for isolation, quarantine, or exclusion would result, Cal/OSHA may, upon request, allow employees to return to work on the basis that the removal of an employee would create undue risk to a community's health and safety. In such cases, the employer must develop, implement, and maintain effective control measures to prevent transmission in the workplace, including providing isolation for the employee at the workplace and, if isolation is not feasible, the use of respirators in the workplace.
33. For how long must employees who had close contact with a COVID case be kept out of the workplace?
Employers shall exclude from the workplace employees who had close contact until the return to work requirements are met, with the following exceptions:
- Employees who were fully vaccinated before the close contact and who do not develop COVID-19 symptoms;
- COVID-19 cases who returned to work after return to work criteria have been met and have remained free of COVID-19 symptoms, for 90 days after the initial onset of COVID-19 symptoms or, for COVID-19 cases who never developed COVID-19 symptoms, for 90 days after the first positive test.
Persons who had a close contact may return to work as follows:
- Persons who had close contact but never developed symptoms may return to work when 10 days have passed since the last known close contact.
- Persons who had close contact and developed any COVID-19 symptom cannot return to work until the return to work criteria for a COVID case have been met unless all of the following three requirements are met: The person tested negative for COVID-19 using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test with specimen taken after the onset of symptoms; at least 10 days have passed since the last known close contact; and the person has been symptom-free for at least 24 hours, without using fever-reducing medications.
- During critical staffing shortages, when there are not enough staff to provide safe patient care, essential critical infrastructure workers in the following categories may return after Day 7 from the date of last exposure if they have received a negative PCR COVID-19 test result from a specimen collected after Day 5:
- Health care workers who did not develop COVID-19 symptoms;
- Emergency response workers who did not develop COVID-19 symptoms; and
- Social service workers who did not develop COVID-19 symptoms and who work face to face with clients in child welfare or assisted living.
34. What if an employee is exposed to family members or others they live with who have COVID-19? How do they know when they can come back to work after their exposure at home?
The employee should follow return to work requirements for close contact. Note: employers are NOT required to pay exclusion benefits to an employee if the close contact occurred outside of work.
35. Can we require a negative COVID-19 test for an employee who tested positive and isolated at home?
An employee who tested positive for COVID-19 is considered a COVID-19 case. If a COVID-19 case follows the applicable return to work criteria as described in the regulation, they can return to work without a requirement for a negative test result.
36. How is the term "COVID-19 Case" defined in the Emergency Regulations?
A COVID-19 case is defined as a person who:
- Has a positive COVID-19 test; or
- Has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider; or
- Is subject to a COVID-19-related order to isolate issued by a local or state health official; or
- Died due to COVID-19, in the determination of a local health department, or per inclusion in the COVID-19 statistics of a county.
37. Does mere exposure or suspected exposure make someone a "COVID-19 Case" under the Emergency Regulations?
No. Mere exposure does not make someone a COVID-19 case.
38. How is the term "worksite" defined in the Emergency Regulations?
A "worksite" is defined as the building, store, facility, agricultural field, or other location where a COVID-19 case was present during the high-risk exposure period. It does not apply to buildings, floors, or other employer locations that a COVID-19 case did not enter. This definition is for the limited purposes of COVID-19 notice requirements in subsections 3205(c)(3)(B)(3) and 3205(c)(3)(B)(4) only.
39. How is the term "exposed group" defined in the Emergency Regulations?
The regulation was updated in June 2021 to eliminate the term "exposed worksite" and replace it with "Exposed group." "Exposed group" means all persons at a work location, working area, or a common area at work, where a COVID-19 case was present at any time during the high-risk exposure period. A common area at work includes bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas.
The following exceptions apply:
- For the purpose of determining the exposed group, a place where persons momentarily pass through while everyone is wearing face coverings, without congregating, is not a work location, working area, or a common area at work.
- If the COVID-19 case was part of a distinct group of employees who are not present at the workplace at the same time as other employees, for instance, a work crew or shift that does not overlap with another work crew or shift, only employees within that distinct group are part of the exposed group.
- If the COVID-19 case visited a work location, working area, or a common area at work for less than 15 minutes during the high-risk exposure period, and all persons were wearing face coverings at the time the COVID-19 case was present, other people at the work location, working area, or common area are not part of the exposed group
NOTE: An exposed group may include the employees of more than one employer.
40. How does the regulation define "close contact"?
"Close contact" means being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the "high-risk exposure period." This definition applies regardless of the use of face coverings.
EXCEPTION: Employees have not had a close contact if they wore a (fit tested) respirator required by the employer and used in compliance with section 5144, whenever they were within six feet of the COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.
41. What is the "high-risk exposure period"?
The "high-risk exposure period" means the following time period:
- For COVID-19 cases who develop COVID-19 symptoms: from two days before they first develop symptoms until all of the following are true: it has been 10 days since symptoms first appeared; 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications; and symptoms have improved.
- For COVID-19 cases who never develop COVID-19 symptoms: from two days before until 10 days after the specimen for their first positive test for COVID-19 was collected.
42. We just had an employee report they tested positive for COVID-19? What do we have to do now?
1. Investigate other potential exposures
Determine the day and time the employee with COVID-19 was last in the workplace, the date of the positive test result, and the date the employee first experienced symptoms. This information is important for determining who else may have been exposed as well as when the employee can return to work.
Determine what other employees may have been exposed. This requires an evaluation of all of the activities of the infected employee during the "high risk exposure period."
2. Make any required reports to outside agencies.
If you have five or more employees, report any workplace cases to State Fund or your workers' compensation carrier if another carrier insures you to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 1159. See reporting and recordkeeping section of this FAQ for more information on reporting requirements, including ones to your workers' compensation carrier.
Note: Reporting this to your workers' compensation carrier does not automatically result in a claim being filed. Your carrier will discuss with you the circumstances around the case to determine whether it is work-related.
3. Exclude COVID cases and close contacts when required.
Keep the COVID-19 positive employee as well as any other employees exposed to the positive employee out of the workplace unless the employee that was in close contact with the COVID-19 case is fully vaccinated and does not have symptoms. Unvaccinated employees exposed at the workplace must isolate at home for 10 days and be paid wages as if they are working. Please see questions in this sectionfor more information on wage requirements and options.
4. Inform employees, independent contractors, other employers present at the workplace of the potential exposure within 1 day.
Do not reveal any personal identifying information about the COVID-19 case
5. Notify authorized representatives of any employee at the worksite during the high-risk exposure period within 1 day.
6. Provide testing to employees who were exposed to the COVID-19 case. Note, testing does not need to be made available to employees who were fully vaccinated prior to close contact or were a COVID-19 case that had met the Return to Work criteria for 90 days after initial symptom onset or their first positive test, as long as they do not have symptoms.
See the COVID-19 TESTING section of this FAQ for more information on how to find testing resources for your worksite.
7. Keep a record of and track all COVID-19 cases with the employee's name, contact information, occupation, location where the employee worked, the date of the last day at the workplace and the date of the positive COVID-19 test.
Keep medical information confidential and secure.
8. Allow the employees isolating at home to return to work once they have met the Return to Work criteria.
See RETURN TO WORK REQUIREMENTS section of this FAQ for more information on the Return to Work criteria.
43. Who is responsible for paying for a test if an employee thinks they may have been exposed outside of the workplace?
Employers must make testing available to unvaccinated employees who had close contact in the workplace or who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 at no cost (no matter where the exposure occurred) and during paid working hours. Vaccinated employees must have testing made available to them if they've had close contact in the workplace and develop symptoms, and when they are identified as part of an exposed group during a major outbreak.
There are many locations that provide free community testing so we recommend you encourage the employee to use one of these locations to be tested. Testing locations can be found using the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) search engine.
44. Do I have to pay wages to employees who have to isolate at home due to a workplace exposure to COVID-19?
Yes. You must continue wages, seniority, and all other employee rights and benefits, including the employee's right to their former job status, as if the employee had not been removed from their job. Employers may use employer-provided employee sick leave benefits for this purpose and consider benefit payments from public sources where permitted by law and when not covered by workers' compensation.
See FAQs on the wage continuation requirements for the Labor Commissioner's Office for more information.
45. How would I handle an employee who tests positive but did not contract COVID-19 at work, they contracted it from a family member whom they live with. If they already used the 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave, am I required to pay for their time out of work if there was absolutely no workplace exposure?
Response: Regardless of where the employee contracted COVID, they must be kept out of the workplace until they meet the return to work requirements listed in 8CCR3205(c)(10). The employer is only required to pay employees for the time they are excluded from the workplace if they were exposed at work.
While employers are not responsible for investigating exposures that occur outside the workplace, they may be required to provide evidence to support the presumption that an employee was exposed outside of the workplace if there is a dispute. Cal/OSHA has addressed this in their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) website under exclusion pay and benefits section.
46. Will my workers' compensation policy cover wages for employees who have had a close contact at work and must stay at home for 10 days?
No, wages for employees excluded from the workplace due to an exposure at work are not covered by workers' compensation insurance.
If the employee advises the employer that they believe they have been exposed to AND contracted COVID-19 from a workplace exposure, then a workers' compensation claim form must be provided to the employee. The employee does not have to wait for symptoms to develop. If a COVID-19 claim is accepted, the injured worker will be provided with workers' compensation benefits. These include: 1) Medical Care 2) Temporary Disability benefits if the injured worker loses wages 3) Permanent Disability if the injured worker does not recover completely 4) Supplemental Job Displacement voucher if the injured worker needs retraining if they do not recover fully and don't return to work for their employer and 5) Death Benefits to the spouse, children or dependents if the injured worker dies from the job injury or illness.
47. Are there any available resources to help pay wages for employees who must stay at home due to a workplace close contact with a COVID-19 case?
The Division of Industrial Relations (DIR) website has a chart with a snapshot of paid leave laws that may cover California workers affected by COVID-19.
Congress has extended until September 30, 2021, the tax credit for employers offering employees paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). We recommend you review the following websites to understand and comply with the law regarding supplemental paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- California Labor Commissioner's COVID-19 Guidance and Resources: provides information on sick leave benefits, supplemental paid sick leave benefits, and FAQs on wage requirements for employees who must isolate at home.
- Department of Labor Website and FAQs give information on the FFCRA
- The California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LDWA): provides COVID-19 resources for employers and workers and gives information on California paid sick leave and COVID-19
48. When is my workplace considered to have multiple COVID-19 infections or an outbreak?
Your workplace is considered to have an outbreak when three or more employee COVID-19 cases within an exposed group visited the workplace during their high-risk exposure period at any time during a 14-day period. NOTE- The persons at an area of the worksite where an employee COVID-19 case was present during their high-risk exposure period are called the exposed group.
Your workplace is considered to have a major outbreak if 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an exposed group visited the workplace during their high-risk exposure period within a 30-day period. See section on MAJOR COVID OUTBREAKS if this applies to you.
Note, COVID-19 cases include employees who are subject to a COVID-19 related order to isolate issued by a local or state health official.
49. What must an employer do in response to a COVID-19 Outbreak under the Emergency Regulation?
In addition to the requirements of section 3205, such as excluding COVID-19 cases and close contacts from the workplace, maintaining the wages and benefits of employees excluded from the workplace due to workplace exposure, and notifying all employees who had close contact with the COVID-19 case of their potential exposure, the following must be done when a workplace has 3 or more COVID-19 cases within an exposed group during a 14-day period:
1. Provide testing for employees
- The employer shall make COVID-19 testing immediately available at no cost to its employees within the exposed group, during employees' paid time, except:
(A) Employees who were not present at the workplace the relevant 14-day period(s) under subsection 3205.1(a);
(B) Employees who were fully vaccinated before the outbreak started and who do not have COVID-19 symptoms;
(C) Recovered employee COVID-19 cases, during a 90-day window that began with the initial onset of symptoms or positive COVID-19 test, provided they remain symptom-free.
- Additional COVID-19 testing must be provided a week after the initial testing.
- After the first two COVID-19 tests, employers make COVID-19 testing available once a week at no cost, during paid time to all employees in the exposed group who remain at the workplace, or more frequently if recommended by the local health department, until there are no new COVID-19 cases detected in the exposed group during a 14-day period.
2. Provide additional COVID-19 protection.
- The employer shall continue to comply with all applicable provisions of section 3205. If there are three or more COVID-19 cases among employees in the exposed group within a 14-day period, the following is required:
- Employees in the exposed group (vaccinated or not) must wear face coverings when indoors, or when outdoors and less than 6' from another person unless an exception from subsection 3205(c)(6)(D) applies. See question on face covering exemption in FACE COVERINGS Section of this FAQ.
- Employers must notify the exposed group of their right to request a respirator for voluntary use if they are not fully vaccinated.
- Employers must evaluate whether to implement physical distancing or the use of cleanable solid partitions to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
3. Conduct COVID-19 investigation, review, and hazard correction.
- The employer shall immediately perform a review of potentially relevant COVID-19 policies, procedures, and controls and implement changes as needed to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The investigation and review shall be documented and include:
- Investigation of new or unabated COVID-19 hazards, including the employer's leave policies and practices and whether employees are discouraged from remaining home when sick; the employer's COVID-19 testing policies; insufficient outdoor air; insufficient air filtration; and lack of physical distancing.
- The review shall be updated every 30 days that the outbreak continues, in response to new information or to new or previously unrecognized COVID-19 hazards, or when otherwise necessary.
- The employer shall implement changes to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 based on the investigation and review.
4. Update COVID-19 policies and procedures to further reduce risk
- The employer must consider moving indoor tasks outdoors or having them performed remotely, increasing outdoor air supply when work is done indoors, improving air filtration, increasing physical distancing as much as possible, respiratory protection, and other applicable controls.
- In buildings or structures with mechanical ventilation, employers shall filter recirculated air with Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 or higher efficiency filters if compatible with the ventilation system. If MERV-13 or higher filters are not compatible with the ventilation system, employers shall use filters with the highest compatible filtering efficiency. Employers shall also evaluate whether portable or mounted High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration units or other air cleaning systems would reduce the risk of transmission and, if so, shall implement their use to the degree feasible.
50. How quickly must I make the report to my local health department if there are three or more COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period at my workplace?
The report must be made immediately and no longer than 48 hours after the employer knows, or with diligent inquiry would have known, of three or more COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period at a worksite. This requirement is described in California Labor Code section 6409.6.
51. What is "a major COVID-19 outbreak"?
A "major COVID-19 Outbreak" applies to any workplace where 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an exposed group visited the workplace during their high risk exposure period within a 30-day period. NOTE- The persons at an area of the worksite where an employee COVID-19 case was present during their high-risk exposure period are called the exposed group.
A major COVID-19 Outbreak continues until there are fewer than three COVID-19 cases detected in the exposed group for a 14-day period.
52. What does an employer need to do if there is a major COVID-19 outbreak in one of its workplaces under the Emergency Regulations?
In addition to requirements described in the MuLtiple COVID-19 Infections and COVID-19 Outbreak section of this FAQ, employers must take the following actions for a major COVID-19 outbreak at work:
- Employers must provide twice a week COVID-19 testing, or more frequently if recommended by the local health department. This applies to all employees, vaccinated or not.
- The employer shall provide a respirator for voluntary use to address COVID-19 hazards in compliance with subsection 5144(c)(2) to employees in the exposed group. The employer also must evaluate the need for a respiratory protection program or if any changes are needed to an existing respiratory protection program under section 5144.
- Any employees in the exposed group who are not wearing fit-tested respirators required for their job shall be separated from other persons by at least six feet, except where an employer can demonstrate that six feet of separation is not feasible. When it is not feasible to maintain a distance of at least six feet, individuals shall be as far apart as feasible. Physical distancing is not required for momentary travel or passing in the workplace.
- At work stations where an employee in the exposed group is assigned to work for an extended period of time, such as cash registers, desks, and production line stations, and where the physical distancing requirement is not maintained at all times, the employer shall install cleanable solid partitions that effectively reduce transmission between the employee and other persons.
- The employer shall evaluate whether to halt some or all operations at the workplace until COVID-19 hazards have been corrected.
- Employer shall take any other control measures deemed necessary by Cal/OSHA through the Issuance of Order to Take Special Action.
53. What is considered employer-provided housing?
Employer-provided housing is free or paid living space provided to workers, in connection with the worker's employment.
It includes any place or area of land, any portion of any housing accommodation, or property upon which a housing accommodation is located and consisting of:
- Living quarters
- Maintenance-of-way car
- Mobile home
- Manufactured home
- Recreational vehicle
- Travel trailer, or
- Other housing accommodations
Housing includes a "labor camp" as referred to in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations and Title 25 California Administrative Code, section 610 - Employee Housing
Employer-provided housing can be in one or more sites, including:
- Hotels and motels, or the surrounding property
- An area set aside and provided for parking of mobile homes or camping
54. What situations are excluded from the employer-provided housing requirements?
The following are excluded from the requirements:
- Government entities that provide housing for emergency response
- Firefighting, rescue, and evacuation
- Support activities directly aiding response such as utilities, communications, and medical operations
- Private employers providing temporary housing that is necessary to conduct the emergency response operations.
- Employees with occupational exposure as defined by section 5199 when covered by that section.
- Employer-provided housing used exclusively to house COVID-19 cases.
- Employer-provided housing units that house one employee or all residents in the unit are vaccinated.
- For occupants who maintained a household together with family members, when no other persons outside the household are present, prior to residing in employer-provided housing, only the assignment of housing and testing requirements apply
55. How must bedrooms be set up in employer-provided housing?
The June 2021 revision to the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards removed the physical distancing requirements in sleeping areas. It is still advised to provide as much space between sleepers as possible by:
- Positioning beds to maximize the distance between sleepers' heads.
- If using bunk beds, alternate the direction of the sleepers, so the head of the sleeper in the top bunk is above the bottom bunk sleeper's feet.
Employers are required to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency to the highest level that is compatible with the existing ventilation system. If the housing does not have mechanical ventilation or the system is not compatible with a MERV 13 or higher rated filter, portable or mounted HEPA filtration units must be used to the extent feasible in sleeping areas with two or more residents who are not fully vaccinated.
56. What do I do if an employee in employer-provided housing tests positive for COVID-19?
Employers must do the following:
- Effectively quarantine unvaccinated residents who had close contact with the COVID-19 case from all other residents by providing close contacts a private bathroom and sleeping area. This does not apply to residents who are:
- Fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms
- Employees who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days and don't have any symptoms.
- Isolate COVID-19 cases by housing them only with other COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 cases must be provided with a sleeping area and bathroom that is not shared by non-COVID-19 cases.
- Keep personal information about employees with COVID-19 symptoms and cases confidential.
- Follow the Return to Work criteria before allowing employees with COVID-19 to resume housing with other employees. See RETURN TO WORK section of these FAQ’s.
The State of California's Housing for the Harvest Program offers temporary hotel housing to agricultural workers who need to isolate themselves due to COVID-19. Check their website for more information and a listing of the counties where the program is available.
57. What is considered employer-provided transportation?
Employers who provide, arrange for, or secure any transportation of an employee during the course and scope of employment are required to take precautions for COVID-19 protection. This includes carpools, rideshare/shuttle vehicles, and private charter buses providing transportation to and from different workplaces, job sites, delivery sites, buildings, stores, facilities, and agricultural fields.
58. Are there any exemptions from the employer-provided transportation requirements?
This emergency temporary standard applies to all employers who provide transportation except:
- If the driver and all passengers are from the same household outside of work or if the driver is alone in the vehicle.
- Employer-provided transportation when necessary for emergency response, including firefighting, rescue, and evacuation, and support activities directly aiding response such as utilities, communications, and medical operations.
- Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.
- Vehicles in which all employees are fully vaccinated.
- Public transportation.
59. Do we have to keep the windows open in our vehicles?
Windows should be open in the vehicle in order to maximize the outdoor air supply. Windows may be closed when:
- The air conditioner is in use, and excessive outdoor heat would create a hazard to passengers.
- The heater is in use, and excessive outdoor cold would create a hazard to passengers.
- The cabin air filter is in use and the EPA Air Quality Index for any pollutant is greater than 100.
- Weather protection is needed, such as for rain and snow.
60. What precautions should be taken when driving in a vehicle to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Researchers have studied how open windows and passengers in the car affect airflow. The safest configuration is with the driver seated alone in the front seat and one passenger in the backseat on the passenger side of the vehicle. The windows opposite the driver and passenger should be open, and the windows next to the driver and passenger should be closed (see Diagram 1 below). This creates a counterclockwise airflow in the car, which helps reduce exposure potential because air has to travel farther to reach the other person in the car. The worst configuration is to have the windows right next to the driver and passenger open. This will carry the driver's exhaled breath right to the passenger (diagram 2).
In addition to optimizing airflow, all unvaccinated occupants of the vehicle should wear a face covering or request a respirator for voluntary use unless driving alone. Occupants should also sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the vehicle.
Diagram 1: Opening windows opposite from driver and passenger will set up counterclockwise air flow in the car.
Diagram 2: Opening the windows next to driver and passenger pulls driver’s exhaled breath towards the passenger
Figures derived from data presented in: Airflows inside passenger cars and implications for airborne disease transmission, BY VARGHESE MATHAI, ASIMANSHU DAS, JEFFREY A. BAILEY, KENNETH BREUER, SCIENCE ADVANCES01 JAN 2021: EABE0166
61. What is the distance that needs to be maintained between passengers in a vehicle?
With the June 2021 revision to Cal/OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standards, physical distancing is no longer required in vehicles. It is still advised to space passengers as far apart as feasible.
62. What if our unvaccinated employees do not want to wear face coverings in the vehicles?
You would handle these employees just as you would any employee not following any other safety policy you have put into place. This should be done according to the provisions you have established under the compliance section of your IIPP. Those would include your disciplinary procedures and retraining of employees. Be sure your training is effective at making employees understand the hazard and the risks associated with not following the safety rule, including disciplinary actions.
For more information about IIPPs and how to successfully implement them, visit the SafeAtWorkCA Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) website.
If you do not have an IIPP, you can use State Fund's IIPP Builder℠ to create one.
State Fund cannot answer questions or give advice about employee relations and discipline.