New COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Go Into Effect

  • Jun 22, 2021

On June 17, the new Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards went into effect. All California employers must comply with the ETS, with limited exceptions. Employers should be aware of these updates as the new rules lift many of the COVID restrictions for fully vaccinated employees. Fully vaccinated is defined as 14 days have passed since the employee received the final vaccination dose. Highlights of the updates are as follows.

Face Coverings

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors unless there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the workplace.
  • Unvaccinated employees must wear face coverings indoors and in vehicles. Masks may be removed only when the employee is alone in a room or vehicle, when eating/drinking or when an accommodation is required.
  • Unvaccinated employees do not have to wear a mask outdoors.
  • If face coverings are required, they must have at least two layers and be worn over the nose and mouth. Single-layer masks are not acceptable.
  • Employers cannot prevent an employee from wearing a face covering (unless the covering would create a safety hazard) even if the mask is not required.

Close Contacts

  • Close contacts who are fully vaccinated do not need to be excluded from work as long as they remain asymptomatic.
  • Unvaccinated close contacts must be excluded from the workplace until the return-to-work criteria are met. If the unvaccinated employee remains asymptomatic, they may return 10 days after their last known close contact.
  • Unvaccinated close contacts who have had COVID-19 in the preceding 90 days before exposure and who have remained asymptomatic do not need to be excluded from work.

Documenting Vaccination Status

  • Employers must document and record employee’s vaccination status in order to enact the relaxed guidelines. Upon reviewing an employee’s vaccination card/documentation the employer may keep a copy of the proof of vaccination or simply record having seen the proof. Employer also can record an employee’s self-attestation to vaccination status as necessary documentation. Vaccination status must remain confidential and separate from a personnel file.

COVID Protocols

  • No physical distancing is required — regardless of vaccination status — unless in the event of a COVID outbreak.
  • Employers must provide information on the benefits of vaccination and how to receive the vaccine.
  • Employers must provide N95 respirators upon request to all unvaccinated employees who work indoors or are in a vehicle.
  • Employers must evaluate their ventilation systems and maximize the quantity of outdoor air brought indoors and use the highest compatible efficiency filter possible with their ventilation system.
  • Employers must provide written notice of a potential COVID exposure in the workplace within one business day of the time the employer knew, or should have known, of a workplace COVID case.
  • All employees must be screened for COVID symptoms regardless of vaccination status.
  • There are no prohibitions on sharing commonly touched objects
  • If all employees are vaccinated, employers are exempt from regulations for employer-provided housing and transportation.

COVID Testing

  • Employers must offer at no cost COVID testing during paid time to:
  • Symptomatic unvaccinated employees regardless of a known exposure
  • Unvaccinated employees after COVID exposure
  • Symptomatic fully vaccinated employees after COVID exposure
  • All employees during a COVID outbreak
  • Outbreak testing must take place when three or more employees have COVID in the workplace. Workplace outbreak testing has been narrowed to those with close exposure to the affected persons.
  • “Paid time” means the employer must make testing available during paid time. While the employee must be compensated for time and travel expenses incurred by getting tested, the employer is not obligated to provide the test during an employee’s normal working hours.

Exclusion Pay Exemptions

  • The only exemptions for providing exclusion pay are for employees receiving disability or workers’ compensation or if the employer can demonstrate the COVID exposure was not work related.

For more information, visit the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions webpage. The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Guidance and Resources webpage provides numerous valuable resources for employers including:

  • Direct links to subsections of the ETS
  • Industry-specific COVID guidance
  • Educational materials
  • COVID-19 webinars
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