Workplace assessment and controls
Employers must first closely review the workplace to identify how employees may become infected. Areas or operations where people are close together for extended periods should be the focus. The Cal/OSHA regulation requires employers to:
- Maximize ventilation with outdoor air, and
- Improve filtration efficiency of existing mechanical ventilation systems to MERV-13 or highest filtration efficiency possible.
- Use in-room HEPA filtration units in areas of inadequate ventilation.
Employers should also consider telework options, staggering start times and breaks, and adding space between workstations to minimize potential close contacts. Review workplace hazards and controls regularly and as part of the procedure to investigate COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
Communication and training
Free flow of information is critical to containing virus spread and protecting employees at increased risk of severe disease.
- Employees should report COVID-19 symptoms or workplace COVID-19 exposures promptly.
- Employers must provide information on access to testing when needed and inform employees about the COVID-19 hazards and prevention policies in the workplace.
- Employers should ensure employees understand how COVID-19 spreads, how to properly use personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings, and the importance of staying home and testing for COVID-19 if symptoms develop.
Face coverings are no longer required for employees working indoors or in vehicles, with two exceptions:
- If face coverings are required by CDPH’s Guidance for the Use of Face Masks or Isolation/Quarantine Guidance.
- When an employee who had COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test within the last 10 days returns to work.
In situations where face coverings are required, employers must provide them and they must meet the Cal/OSHA definition. Face coverings must be clean, undamaged, and worn over the nose and mouth.
A NIOSH approved respirator effective at protecting against particulate matter, such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, must still be provided to any employee working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person upon request, and to all employees in an exposed group during an outbreak.
Although face coverings are no longer required, they are still highly recommended in indoor workplaces or in the event of a COVID-19 close contact, regardless of vaccination status. The best face coverings are those that fit well and provide good filtration.
Employers must provide COVID-19 testing to employees who had close contact in the workplace to a COVID-19 case except for recently recovered COVID-19 cases. Testing must be available during paid working hours and free of charge to the employee.
Additional testing requirements apply during workplace outbreaks and for COVID cases returning to work 5 days after diagnosis. The State of California has information on how to find local testing and how to use an at-home test kit.
Updated definition of close contact
- For indoor airspaces of 400,000 or fewer cubic feet, “close contact” is now defined as sharing the same indoor airspace with a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period.
- For indoor airspaces of greater than 400,000 cubic feet, “close contact” is defined as being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period.
Return to work criteria
Under the new standard, employees are allowed to return to the workplace once they have passed their infectious period. Employees returning to the workplace must wear an approved face covering if a minimum of 10 days had not passed since symptoms began or a positive test was taken.
Updated definition of infectious period
- COVID-19 cases who do not develop symptoms – from 2 days before the positive test was taken through 10 days after their first positive test was taken, OR 5 days if testing negative on day 5 or later.
- COVID-19 cases who develop symptoms – 2 days before symptoms started through 10 days have passed after symptoms first appeared OR through day 5 if testing negative on day 5 or later, AND 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medication and symptoms have improved.
Exclusion of COVID-19 Cases
Employers must send home employees with COVID-19 and have a policy in place based on CDPH guidance to prevent transmission by those who had close contact to a COVID-19 case on the job. The regulations do not require employers to pay employees excluded from the workplace.
Excluded employees may use paid leave or may qualify for benefits such as State Disability Insurance (SDI) while they are unable to work due to COVID-19 illness or exposure. Employers must provide COVID-19 cases information on what benefits may be available to them upon exclusion.
Employers must notify all employees, contractors, and other employers who were on the premises at the same worksite within one day when there is a COVID-19 case. Employers must do contact tracing and identify close contacts; those close contacts must receive additional information on testing and benefits available to them.