Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Standard – What Employers Need to Know

The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Standard is effective as of November 30, 2020.  The new Standard requires that employers implement a site-specific written COVID-19 prevention program to address COVID-19 health hazards, correct unsafe or unhealthy conditions and provide face coverings. When there are multiple COVID-19 infections or outbreaks at the worksite, employers must provide COVID-19 testing and notify public health departments. The Standard also requires accurate recordkeeping and reporting of COVID-19 cases.

Cal/OSHA has posted FAQs and a one-page fact sheet on the regulation, as well as a model COVID-19 prevention program.

According to a press release dated December 1, 2020, Cal/OSHA enforcement investigators will take an employer’s “good faith efforts to implement the emergency standards into consideration. However, aspects such as eliminating hazards and implementing testing requirements during an outbreak are essential.”

The main requirement of the Emergency Standard is the written COVID-19 Prevention Plan, or CPP. An employer must develop a CPP or ensure its elements are included in an existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).  The employer must implement the following in accordance with their written plan:

  • 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.

The Emergency Standard and subsequent documents released by Cal/OSHA emphasize repeatedly that employers are encouraged, although not required, to engage with employees in the design, implementation and evolution of their CPP.

Employers who provide housing and transportation must include in their CPPP additional elements such as assignment of housing/transportation, physical distancing and controls, face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting, vehicle ventilation, and testing of tenants.  The Cal/OSHA CPP model includes these elements which can be found at the end of the document under “Additional Consideration #3” and “Additional Consideration #4.”

Employers may use the Cal/OSHA CPP Model, however, use of the model does not guarantee compliance.  To ensure compliance, employers should have their CPP reviewed by a qualified Human Resources representative or legal counsel.

Please see the following resources for more information about the COVID-19 Emergency Standard. We will continue to share information as it becomes available. If you have questions, please contact CCM Director of Government Affairs Alyssa Houtby at or (559) 592-3790.

Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Standard Regulation – Employer Resources

Additional Reources:

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