COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions CMA has received during the COVID-19 outbreak. By default, the most recent answers will appear up top. You can also filter the FAQ by category. We will update this resource regularly.

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What are the Cal/OSHA emergency COVID-19 safety standards?

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The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board unanimously adopted emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 prevention in the workplace. The standards became binding and enforceable on November 30, 2020.

The emergency standards require employers to develop and implement a written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP), which is modeled on the existing Cal/OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) that all California employers are required to maintain. The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has clarified that the CPP may be a standalone plan or integrated into an employer's existing IIPP. The CPP must provide for the following:

  • Communication to employees about the employer’s COVID-19 prevention procedures;
  • Identify, evaluate and correct COVID-19 hazards;
  • Physical distancing of at least six feet unless it is not possible;
  • Use of face coverings;
  • Use engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment as required to reduce transmission risk;
  • Procedures to investigate and respond to COVID-19 cases in the workplace;
  • Provide COVID-19 training to employees;
  • Provide testing to employees who are exposed to a COVID-19 case, and in the case of multiple infections or a major outbreak, implement regular workplace testing for employees in the exposed work areas;
  • Exclusion of COVID-19 cases and exposed employees from the workplace until they are no longer an infection risk;
  • Maintain records of COVID-19 cases and report serious illnesses and multiple cases to Cal/OSHA and the local health department, as required.

Cal/OSHA has posted a model CPP on its website for employers to use. It should be noted that the emergency temporary standards contain a number of details and requirements beyond those listed above. Some of the more notable requirements include:

  • Once an employer learns of a COVID-19 case in the workplace, employers must investigate to identify other employees who may have been exposed and notify those employees within one business day.
  •  Employers must offer COVID-19 testing, at no cost, to all employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. The employer must arrange for the employee(s) to be tested during working hours.
  • Employers must exclude employees with COVID-19 exposure from the workplace for 14 days after the last known exposure. During the exclusion period, the employer must maintain the employee’s earnings and benefits as if the employee had continued to report to work. Employers may require employees to exhaust paid sick leave benefits before providing exclusion pay, and may offset payments by the amount an employee receives in other benefit payments. These obligations do not apply if an employer establishes the employee’s exposure was not work-related.

While the emergency temporary standards became enforceable on November 30, 2020, the DIR has stated that Cal/OSHA enforcement personnel will consider an employer’s good faith efforts in working towards compliance, but some aspects, such as eliminating hazards and implementing testing requirements during an outbreak, are essential.

DIR has published an FAQ on its website, which provides further guidance on these requirements, as well as additional resources available for employers and workers to ensure compliance.

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