Cal/OSHA Sets New Guidelines for Workplace Health and Safety During COVID-19
California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) has created COVID-19 guidance documents covering more than 30 industries so that employers can effectively protect and train their workers.
"Protecting employees from workplace hazards is not only required by law, it is also the right thing to do and an essential part of stopping the spread of the virus," said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker.
These guidelines mandate that employers implement ways to protect workers from hazards, including such issues as COVID-19. Employers must take the following steps:
- Modify the worksite so that employees are at least six feet apart, or install barriers when that distance is not possible.
- Provide workers with enough time and supplies to disinfect commonly used surfaces and spaces.
- Encourage workers to wash their hands in accordance with federal guidelines, and provide them with enough time and supplies to do so properly.
- Provide employees with cloth face coverings or allow them to use their own. Employees should be reimbursed for the cost of buying their own masks.
- Screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms before each work shift, and recommend that they stay home if they feel sick.
- Advise employees of their sick-leave benefits.
- Employees, customers, clients and visitors should wear face coverings at all times. If the work is moved outdoors, other possible safety hazards such as heat-related illnesses or insufficient lighting must be taken into account.
In addition to these guidelines, California's Department of Industrial Relations recommends that the following measures be included in an employer's written Injury and Illness Protection Program:
- Make sure that workers who are out sick with a fever or acute respiratory symptoms don't return to the job until at least three days pass without fever (without using fever reducing medications) and no respiratory symptoms, and at least 10 days pass since the symptoms first appeared.
- Encourage employees to work remotely when possible.
- Practice physical distancing by cancelling in-person meetings, and using video or teleconferencing instead.
- Avoid shared work items (phones, computers, etc.) when possible.
"As Workers' Compensation attorneys we understand the need for workplaces to be as safe as possible, and when we are confronted with such an unprecedented hazard as COVID-19, that necessity rises to a new level," says Sherry Grant, partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). "It is imperative that employers conform to the guidelines outlined by Cal/OSHA, and it is equally as important that employees know what their rights are when it comes to a safe work environment."