1. Do I have to have a COVID-19 Prevention Program and what must be included?
All employers covered by the regulation must have a COVID-19 Prevention Program. There are specific requirements for the COVID-19 Prevention Programs that employers must follow. The eleven areas that a Covid-19 Prevention Plan must cover are:
- 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
- A plan for physical distancing of employees in the workplace
- A plan for providing face coverings for employees in the workplace
- A plan for other engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment
- A plan for reporting, recordkeeping, and access to records regarding COVID-19 in the workplace
- A plan for exclusion of COVID-19 cases from the workplace
- Return to work criteria
2. Does my COVID-19 Prevention Program have to be in writing?
3. 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.
4. 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 the COVID-19 including what it is, what the symptoms are, and how it spreads.
- Ways to physically distance at least six feet and the importance of combining physical distancing with wearing face coverings.
- 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.
- 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 fact that face coverings are not respiratory protective equipment.
- The importance of not coming to work and obtaining a COVID-19 test if an employee has COVID-19 symptoms.
5. Do I have to provide face coverings at no cost for my employees?
Yes. The regulations require that employers provide face coverings. Employer must also ensure that they are worn by employees over the nose and mouth when indoors, when outdoors and less than six feet away from another person, and where required by orders from the California Department of Public Health or a local health department.
“Face covering” means a tightly woven fabric or non-woven material with no visible holes or openings that covers the nose and mouth.
6. Are there exceptions to the face covering requirement?
Yes. Face coverings are not required:
- When an employee is alone in a room.
- 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 respiratory protection in accordance with section 5144 or other California Code of Regulations Title 8 safety orders.
- 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, and the unmasked employee must be at least six feet away from all other persons unless unmasked employees are tested at least twice weekly for COVID-19.
- By 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 alternative, such as a face shield.
7. What if any 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.
8. What if an 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 least six feet apart from all other persons unless the unmasked employee is tested at least twice weekly for COVID-19. Employers may not use COVID-19 testing as an alternative to face coverings when face coverings are otherwise required.
9. Do I have to require members of the public to wear face coverings on my premises?
This will vary by county. 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.
10. What if the nature of our work does not allow for physical distancing at all times?
When it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least six feet, employees must be kept as far apart as possible.
In cases where the nature of the work does not allow at least six feet of distance, employers should use a combination of other controls to reduce exposure, such as face covers, physical barriers, and using ventilation to dilute or redirect air in the work area that may contain airborne virus.
11. The regulation says I have to include procedures or policies for accommodating employees with medical or other conditions that put them at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness. 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 has materials specific to COVID-19.
12. 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.
13. 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 him to 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
14. How is the term “exposed worksite” defined in the Emergency Regulations?
An “exposed worksite” is “any work location, working area, or common area at work used or accessed by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk period (See Question #16), including bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas. The exposed workplace does not include buildings or facilities that are not entered by a COVID-19 case. It does not apply to buildings, floors, or other locations of the employer that the COVID-19 case did not enter.
15. How is a COVID exposure defined by the regulation?
A COVID-19 exposure means being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for more than 15 minutes in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the “high-risk exposure period”. This definition applies regardless of the use of face coverings.
16. What is the “high-risk exposure period”?
The “high-risk exposure period” means the following time period:
- For persons who develop COVID-19 symptoms:
- From two days before they first develop symptoms until 10 days after symptoms first appeared, and
- 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and
- Symptoms have improved
- For persons who test positive who never develop COVID-19 symptoms:
- From two days before until ten days after the specimen for their first positive test for COVID-19 was collected
17. We just had an employee report they tested positive for COVID-19? What do we have to do now?
- 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”.
- 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 you are insured by another carrier to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 1159. See Question #21 on different 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.
- Keep the COVID-19 positive employee as well as any other employees exposed to the positive employee out of the workplace.
The employees exposed at the workplace must isolate at home for 10 days and be paid wages as if they are working. Please see Questions #22-24 for more information on wage requirements and options. Please note, Section 3205 references a 14-day isolation period for employees exposed at work. The length of the isolation period was changed by Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-84-20 to coincide with recently updated guidance from the CDC and California Department of Public Health regarding isolation periods following an exposure.
- Inform employees, independent contractors and other employers present in the workplace of the potential exposure within 1 day.
Do not reveal any personal identifying information about the COVID-19 case
- Provide Testing to employees who were exposed to the COVID-19 case
See Question #19 with more information on how to find testing resources for your worksite.
- Make any required notifications to outside agencies or your workers’ compensation carrier if they apply.
If you are an employer with 5 or more employees, you must inform your workers’ compensation carrier of the positive test result within three days of becoming aware of the positive test result. See question #21 which contains more information about required notifications in the event of a positive COVID-19 test for an employee.
- 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.
- Allow the employees isolating at home to return to work once they have meet the Return to Work criteria.
See Question #28 for more information on the Return to Work criteria.
18. Who is responsible for paying for a test if an employee thinks they may have been exposed outside of the workplace?
Response: Employers are only responsible to pay for testing if there is reason to believe that the employee has been exposed at work.
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.
19. 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.
20. 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 has 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, that have Emergency Use Authorizations.
21. When must we report COVID-19 cases and to whom do we make the reports?
There are three different COVID-19 reporting requirements that 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 as well as from the new Cal/OSHA regulations 3205.1, Multiple COVID-19 Infections and COVID-19 Outbreaks and 3205.2, Major COVID-19 Outbreaks.
- 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.
- State Fund Page on What Employers Need to Know about SB 1159
- State Fund FAQs on SB 1159
- Cal/OSHA FAQs re SB 1159
- View the State Fund webinar on SB 1159
22. 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.
23. 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)(11). The employer is only required to pay employees for the time they are excluded from the workplace if they were exposed at work and they are otherwise available and able to 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.
24. Are wages that must be paid to employees who have an exposure at work and must stay at home for 10 days covered under my workers’ compensation policy?
No, wages for employees excluded from the workplace due to an exposure at work are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Although multiple paid leave laws expired as of December 31, 2020, Congress has extended until March 31, 2021 the tax credit for employers covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) who would in 2021 offer those leave benefits voluntarily. 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: gives 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
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.
25. Are there any available resources to help pay wages for employees who much stay at home due to a potential workplace exposure to COVID-19?
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.
26. For how long must employees with COVID-19 exposures be kept out of the workplace?
Employees who have had a COVID-19 exposure must be kept out of the workplace for 10 days after the last known exposure to a COVID-19 case. If they develop symptoms and test positive for COVID-19 they must remain away from the workplace until the Return to Work requirements are met.
Please note, Section 3205 references a 14 day isolation period for employees exposed at work. The length of the isolation period was changed by Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-84-20 to coincide with recently updated guidance from the CDC and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) regarding isolation periods following an exposure. The new CDPH guidance requires that employees who return to work after 10 days of isolation wear face coverings and keep a distance of six feet from others until the at least 14 days have passed since the last exposure.
27. When is the earliest someone can exit quarantine and return to work if they remain symptom-free? Can a negative test result shorten the length of quarantine?
Response: Although both the CDC and CDPH still recommend a 14-day quarantine for people exposed to the coronavirus, this time period was shortened by the Governor to 10-days in December 2020 to aid in compliance and to minimize the economic/physical/mental hardship of a 14-day quarantine. Employers are cautioned to carefully consider the risks posed by shortening the employee exclusion period and to ensure that employees who return to work before completing a 14-day quarantine are still monitoring themselves daily for symptoms and following all worksite precautions to avoid virus spread at work. Before adopting any of the options for a shorter quarantine described below, we recommend that employers seek advice from their local health department and Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.
If an employee is subject to an order by local health department, contact that department directly to discuss concerns and alternative return to work criteria. In general, your local health department is the best resource for information on local virus transmission concerns and allowable practices for employers.
If there is not a specific order by the local health department to isolate or quarantine, and there are no violations of local or state health orders, then an employer may have some flexibility and options to shorten the period that an exposed employee is excluded from the workplace.
- Temporarily reassign the employee to work where they do not have contact with other persons until the return to work requirements are met. [8CCR3205(c)(10) Exception]
- Request a waiver from Cal/OSHA to allow an employee to return to work on the basis that the removal of the employee would create undue risk to a community's health and safety. [8CCR3205(c)(11)(E)]
- During critical staffing shortages, healthcare workers, emergency responders, and social service workers who work in-person with clients in the child welfare system or assisted living facilities can be allowed to return to work after day 7 of exposure if they had a negative COVID test that was collected after day 5 of exposure. We recommend that you review the CDPH COVID-19 Quarantine Guidance for more details.
It is important to remember that in all of the above-listed cases of early return to work, the employee must continue to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and must observe all other protective practices in the workplace such as distancing, use of face coverings, and frequent handwashing. If the employee develops symptoms or has a new exposure to a COVID-19 case, then they will need to follow isolation/quarantine instructions for the new symptoms or exposure.
28. 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 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 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 who tested positive but never developed COVID-19 symptoms cannot return to work until a minimum of 10 days have passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive COVID-19 test.
A negative COVID-19 test cannot be required for an employee to return to work.
If a local or state health official tells an employee they must isolate or quarantine at home, 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 period shall be 10 days from the time the order to isolate or the order to quarantine was effective.
If there are no violations of local or state health officer orders for isolation or quarantine, 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 possible, the use of respiratory protection in the workplace.
29. How do we handle cases when someone has already tested positive for Covid-19 once, gone through the quarantine, received all their 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave, followed our Return to Work Protocol, and then months later has close contact exposure to someone who tests positive at the workplace. Do they have to quarantine again, or are they considered immune? What if their test comes back positive again? How are we supposed to handle this to ensure we don't discriminate against anyone, while also ensuring we are doing all we can to protect the health of our staff at large?
Response: Current regulations do not include considerations for immunity or vaccination. Current knowledge of the virus and how long immunity may last is also limited. Therefore, regardless of an employee’s history of COVID-19 illness, they must be excluded from the workplace for at least 10-days if they are exposed to a COVID-19 case, and until return to work criteria is met if they test positive.
We suggest that you contact Cal/OSHA Consultation Services with any questions about this scenario.
30. 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?
Response: The employee must wait 10 days since the last date of exposure (and not develop any symptoms or test positive during that 10-day period) before they can return to work. This 10-day time window can be difficult to figure out when multiple infections and illnesses are occurring in a household. If multiple people have become sick with COVID-19 in the employee’s household, the employee may need to isolate themselves from their household or wait until 10 days AFTER each and every member of the household has completed isolation required for a COVID-19 case.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued guidance for isolation and quarantine for contact tracing that provides more guidance for when to return to work in such a situation.
31. What if an employee has a family member who was exposed and told to quarantine? What is protocol for the employee? Are they required to quarantine also?
Response: Employees are required to quarantine and be excluded from the workplace whenever they have been exposed to a person with COVID-19. So in this case, the employee could continue to enter the workplace as long as the quarantined family member is maintaining 6’ of distance at all times, wearing a face covering whenever outside of their own separate bedroom, and is monitoring themselves for symptoms. Should the quarantined family member develop symptoms, we recommend the employee encourage their family member to get tested and seek guidance from the local health department.
More information on home isolation and quarantine is available from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
32. What about an asymptomatic exposed employee or COVID positive employee returning to work without a negative test, knowing that people can be asymptomatic and still transmit the virus?
Response: Employees who follow the return-to-work requirements should be safe to return to work. Observing the more stringent CDC/CDPH-recommended 14-day quarantine would be an option for more protective measures and some local health orders may require a 14-day quarantine.
Both CDC and CDPH recommend a symptom, not test-based strategy for allowing employees back into the workforce following COVID-19 illness. Employers are cautioned in how they use test-based strategies for determining when employees can return to work due to the fact that an individual may continue to test positive long after they are infectious. The California Department of Public Health has released guidance on use of testing that addresses this concern.
33. What if an employee has an illness or condition other than COVID-19 that causes COVID-19 symptoms? How do I handle that?
Response: 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.
The ETS also requires employers to have procedures and policies in place for accommodating employees with conditions that may put them at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness. Personal medical information disclosed when requesting an accommodation must be kept confidential and in a file separate from employee personnel records.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has guidance regarding screening procedures, reasonable accommodations, confidentiality, and discrimination.
34. 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 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.
35. 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.
36. When is my workplace considered to have multiple COVID-19 infections or an outbreak?
Your workplace is considered to have an outbreak when:
- Your local health department indicates you have an outbreak or
- You have three or more COVID-19 cases at a worksite within a 14-day period.
Your workplace is considered to have a major outbreak when there are 20 or more cases at a worksite within a 30-day period. 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.
37. With respect to an “outbreak,” how is the term “COVID-19 Case” defined in the Emergency Regulations?
A COVID-19 Case is defined as a person who:
- Has a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the State Department of Public Health or
- Has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider or
- Has a COVID-19-related order to isolate provided by a public health official; or
- Died due to COVID-19, in the determination of a county public health department, or per inclusion in the COVID-19 statistics of a county.
38. Does mere exposure or suspected exposure make someone a “COVID-19 Case” under the Emergency Regulations?
No. Mere exposure does not make someone a qualifying individual or a COVID-19 case.
- What must an employer do in response to a COVID-19 Outbreak under the Emergency Regulation?
- Provide testing for employees
- When there is an outbreak, the employer must provide COVID-19 testing to all employees at the exposed workplace except for employees who were not present during the period of an outbreak identified by a local health department or the relevant 14-day period(s) when the cases were identified. COVID-19 testing must be provided at no cost to employees during employees’ working hours.
- Additional COVID-19 testing must be provided a week after the initial testing.
- After the first two COVID-19 tests, employers must provide continuous COVID-19 testing of employees who remain at the workplace at least once per week, or more frequently if recommended by the local health department, until there are no new COVID-19 cases detected during a 14-day period.
- Exclude exposed employees
- Keep employees with COVID-19 and those who have been exposed out of the workplace.
- Employers must continue to pay wages to an employee who must isolate at home for 10 days following a workplace exposure as if the employee had not been removed from their job.
- Employers may use employer-provided sick leave benefits to this purpose and consider benefit payments from public sources.
- Immediately investigate and determine possible workplace related factors that contributed to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- This must include 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 or insufficient air filtration
- Lack of physical distancing.
- 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.
- Provide testing for employees
- Notify the local health department
- The employer must provide to the local health department the total number of COVID-19 cases and for each COVID-19 case, the name, contact information, occupation, workplace location, business address, the hospitalization and/or fatality status, and North American Industry Classification System code of the workplace of the COVID-19 case, and any other information requested by the local health department. The employer shall continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent COVID-19 cases at the workplace.
- How quickly must I make the report to my local health department if there are three or more COVID-19 cases 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 at a worksite.
39. What is a “a major COVID-19 Outbreak”?
- A “major COVID-19 Outbreak” is any place of employment where “there are 20 or more COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 30-day period.” 8 CCR Section 3205.2(a)(1). A major COVID-19 Outbreak continues until there are no new COVID-19 cases detected in a workplace for a 14-day period.” 8 CCR Section 3205.2(a)(2).
40. What does an employer need to do if there is a major COVID-19 outbreak in one of its workplaces under the Emergency Regulations?
- Provide Employee Testing for COVID-19
- Employers must provide twice a week COVID-19 testing, or more frequently if recommended by the local health department, to all employees present at the exposed workplace during the relevant 30-day period(s) and who remain at the workplace.
- COVID-19 testing shall be provided at no cost to employees during employees’ working hours.
- Employers must ensure COVID-19 cases and employees with COVID-19 exposure are excluded from the workplace
- Exclude COVID-19 cases from the workplace
- Employees who have COVID-19 exposures must isolate at home for 10 days.
- Investigate cases to find potential causes and take steps to improve their COVID-19 Prevention Plan to prevent additional infections.
- Employers must improve ventilation filtration if possible and consider the use of portable or mounted air cleaners in the workplace
- Employers must determine if respirators are needed for employees
- Employers must evaluate whether to halt some or all operations to control COVID-19 hazards.
- Notify the local health department
- Employers must notify their local health department of multiple cases within 48 hours.
41. 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
42. What businesses are excluded from the employer-provided housing requirements?
The following business 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.
- 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.
43. How must bedrooms be set up in employer provided housing?
Bedrooms must be arranged as follows:
- No bunk beds are allowed.
- Set beds at least six feet apart in all directions.
- Position beds to maximize the distance between sleepers’ heads.
44. What do I do if an employee in employer provided housing tests positive for COVID-19?
Employers must do the following:
- Develop policies and procedures to effectively isolate COVID-19 exposed residents from all other occupants.
- Provide COVID-19 exposed residents with a private bathroom, sleeping area, and cooking and eating facility that is not shared by non-COVID-19 case occupants.
- House COVID-19 cases only with other 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.
The State of California’s Housing for the Harvest Program offers temporary hotel housing to agricultural workers who need to isolate due to COVID-19. Check their website for more information and a listing of the counties where the program is available.
45. What is considered employer-provided transportation?
Employers who provide, arrange for, or secure transportation of employees to and from work in vehicles are required to take these precautions for COVID-19 protection. This includes carpools, rideshare/shuttle vehicles, and private charter buses.
46. What businesses are excluded from the employer-provided transportation requirements?
This emergency temporary standard applies to all employers except:
- Workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people
- Employees who are working from home
- Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation
These requirements also do not apply to residents of the same household who share the same vehicle, emergency response workers such as fire-fighting, rescue and evacuation workers, and their support, such as utilities, communications, and medical operations.
47. 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 the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- The heater is in use and the temperature is below 60 degrees
- The cabin air filter is in use, and the potential contaminants have an air quality index greater than 100
- Weather protection is needed, such as for rain and snow
48. What precautions should be taken when driving in a vehicle to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Response: Researchers have studied how open windows and passengers in the car affect air flow. The safest configuration is with the driver seated alone in 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 counter-clockwise 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 air flow, unless driving alone, all occupants of the vehicle should wear a face covering that effectively covers their nose and mouth. Occupants should also be seated at least 3’ from each other and 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 (https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/1/eabe0166.full)
49. What is the distance that needs to be maintained between passengers in a vehicle?
Employees must stay six feet apart while waiting for transportation, and three feet apart in all directions while in the vehicle. Face coverings are required during screening, while waiting and being transported.
This distance may be increased through the use of large vehicles like passenger vans, or busses as opposed to cars. This will allow for more distance and headspace within the vehicle.
50. What if our 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. is effective at making employees understand the hazard and the risks associated with not following the safety rule.
For more information about IIPPs and how to successfully implement them, visit Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).
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.
51. 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 finger nails, and then rub it in until it dries.
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)
52. What should we do with our HVAC system? Any special cleaning or filters that should be used?
The best measures you can take for minimizing virus spread in your workplace is to institute control measures in your workplace:
- Screen employees entering the workplace
- Reduce the number of people in indoor work environments
- Require face coverings, physical distancing, handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting.
There are some recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, ASHRAE, regarding Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems:
- 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 UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), protecting occupants from radiation, particularly in high-risk spaces such as waiting rooms, prisons and shelters
If you are not responsible for the maintenance or servicing of your ventilation system, provide the guidance in the link above to your contractor or building manager ask what options are feasible for your particular system.
53. 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 the 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. Ultra violet (UV) light is also effective at killing viruses, but exposure to UV light is dangerous to humans so sunlight is not a good disinfectant. At this time, the safest and most effective means of disinfecting is to use products on the EPA’s list according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It is recommended that shared tools be cleaned and disinfected before and after use.
54. Any recommendations for disinfecting items that can’t be washed, like books or fabrics?
Unless entirely necessary, remove these items from the workplace. If you have upholstered furniture, clean according to the manufacturer’s instructions using approved products. Consider purchasing a cover that can be easily removed and laundered. Washing fabrics in the highest water temp recommended for the material and thoroughly drying in a clothes dryer will effectively inactivate any virus. Just be sure to wear a face covering when handling laundry and avoid shaking laundry which can send viral particles into the air.
Studies have shown the virus does not remain viable on cardboard or other porous surfaces for more than 24 hours, so time is the best disinfectant for these items. If you have books that are shared by coworkers or customers, set up a system so the book is “quarantined” for one to two days before being used by another.
The CDC has issued guidelines on which products are effective at safely getting rid of the coronavirus, and the Environmental Protection Agency has released a list of registered cleaning products that meet its criteria for killing it.
55. How can we sanitize the air when Lysol™ spray is non-existent these days? I’ve seen HEPA filters but are they “enough?” Which is better to use, a fogger or a sprayer to clean the air?
Be sure you use disinfectants according to the label, otherwise they can be ineffective and present safety or health hazards. Applying chemicals to the air to try to sanitize the air may create hazardous exposures to the cleaning chemicals for the person spraying the chemical or others working nearby. When it comes to air, the best recommendations are to reduce the number of people in indoor spaces, increase the amount of outside air, improve the filter efficiency of your HVAC, and reduce recirculation.
High efficiency particulate air or HEPA filters can help filter out virus particles in the air. Depending on the size of the unit and the space in which it is located, it can take a long time for the air to circulated and be filtered by the air cleaner and it may not filter all of the air. For this reason, it is best to practice source control, such as wearing face coverings and sneezing into a tissue, to reduce virus particles in the air.
56. Can a California employer require an employee be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to the physical workplace?
At this time, it is not clear as to whether and under what circumstances an employer can require an employee to be vaccinated under state and federal law. There is some relatively clear guidance under federal law, and California law usually follows federal law in this area.
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.
57. How does the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) apply to employees who have been vaccinated?
At the time of this posting (April 15, 2021), the Cal/OSHA ETS does not provide any exemptions for vaccinated employees. All employees, regardless of vaccination status, must follow workplace controls like wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distancing, and frequently washing/sanitizing their hands, and if exposed to a COVID-19 case must be excluded from the workplace until completion of quarantine.