California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) released a draft rule that would make the state’s Covid 19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) permanent (for at least two years).
The proposed permanent rule does not at this point include a vaccine mandate. Cal/OSHA said it will respond to a federal OSHA requirement for workplace vaccinations when it is published.
“The expanded proposed duration as framed signals that Covid 19 protocols may be here to stay, even after the pandemic is a distant (or even not-so-distant) memory,” say attorneys for the law firm of Littler Mendelson.
The draft standard incorporates the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines, such as requiring employers to provide workers face coverings when required to do so by the CDPH.
In the absence of CDPH face mask directions, the rule defaults to a requirement that unvaccinated employees wear face coverings while indoors or in a vehicle with others.
Under the new rule, employers would only be obligated to provide N95 respirators for voluntary use to employees identified by a health care professional “as being at increased risk of severe illness from Covid 19, regardless of vaccination status.” The current ETS holds that employers must provide the N95 respirators to unvaccinated employees only when they are requested.
A major change is a proposed elimination of the need for a Covid 19 Prevention Plan (CPP). Instead, employers would be expected to address Covid in its Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP).
At a minimum, employers would be expected to assess the Covid hazard, train their employees about it and investigate Covid 19 cases as they arise.
However, employers of any size would be required to document the training they provide for their workers, which also represents a departure from current IIPP requirements.