California OSHA Issues COVID-19 Guidance to Employers

Oakland, CA -For employers continuing their business operations during the health crisis, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has issued Interim Guidance to ensure the health and safety of working employees.

Cal/OSHA’s regulations require protection for workers exposed to airborne infectious diseases, which include COVID-19. Employers in industries with higher risks of exposure (such as hospitals, correctional facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and homeless shelters) must comply with California’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (“ATD”) Standard. These standards require that all covered employers have a knowledgeable person to implement programs dedicated to the prevention of ATDs, have a procedure in place for screening patients and visitors for potential airborne infectious diseases, and have a system of controls designed to reduce employee exposures, among other requirements. Employers covered by the ATD standard must provide employees with all required safeguards, including personal protective equipment, respirators, training, and medical services, at no cost to employees.

For general industry employers not covered by the ATD standard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its own Interim Guidance to plan and respond to COVID-19. These guidelines recommend implementing a flexible schedule to minimize exposure between employees, encouraging remote operations, and providing employee training on proper hygiene and sanitation practices to maintain a healthy work environment.

Any essential businesses exempted from the California shelter-in-place order should comply with the above requirements to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as the shelter-in-place order’s “social distancing” requirements, including ensuring that individuals maintain a distance of at least six feet from one another, prohibiting gatherings of ten people or more and discouraging physical contact (such as shaking hands), washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs and sneezes, and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges to employers seeking to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. McDowell Hetherington attorneys are available to assist you with any questions you may have in navigating this ongoing crisis. For more information or to discuss concerns specific to your business or geographic region, contact McDowell Hetherington attorneys Jodi Swick, Allison Fernandez, or Colleen Flaherty.