The California Office of Administrative Law has approved the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations (Non-Emergency Regulations). As a result, on February 3, 2023, Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) expired, and the Non-Emergency Regulations went into effect.
Although extending many of the ETS requirements, as we previously reported, the Non-Emergency Regulations contain some notable changes. A redline comparing the Non-Emergency Regulations to the ETS is available here. Some important changes include:
In June 2022, the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (“Cal/OSHA”) proposed initial non-emergency standards for COVID-19 prevention in the workplace that were intended to replace the current COVID Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) set to expire on December 31, 2022. Following oral and written comments received from the public, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board (the “Board”) made further updates to the proposed non-emergency standard as of December 2, 2022 (the “Anticipated New Regulation”). It is expected that the Board will vote on the Anticipated New Regulation, with no further modifications, at its upcoming meeting on December 15, 2022. The Anticipated New Regulation would then become effective from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2024.
For more than two and a half years, employers across the country have navigated a nuanced web of legal requirements and guidance to safely operate during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Recent updates to the legal landscape at the federal, state, and local level, however, have left many employers asking: is the COVID-19 pandemic finally over? For now, the answer remains “no.” This post discusses three key reasons why employers should continue to operate with the pandemic in mind.
As featured in #WorkforceWednesday: This week, we’re breaking down recent local- and state-level developments impacting compliance for employers.
On January 26, 2022, the City and County of San Francisco released an updated Health Order No. C19-07y (the “Updated Health Order”), which addresses a number of rules issued in an effort to combat continued spread of COVID-19, including changes in exemptions to the universal indoor mask mandate. Specifically, effective February 1, 2022, the Updated Health Order renews a previously-suspended masking exemption for vaccinated workplaces, with a few significant changes.
First, under the revised mask exemption, only employees who are “Up to Date” on vaccination (see below for definition) may go unmasked in the workplace, assuming the other conditions for the exemption are met. Other individuals must wear masks at all times, subject to limited exceptions (e.g., alone, while eating). Further, consistent with the Cal/OSHA definition of an outbreak, this exemption only applies if there have been no outbreaks (currently defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in an “exposed group” within a 14-day period) in the past 30 days.
In connection with the new Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that went into effect on January 14, 2022, the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) has released the following COVID-19-related resources for employers:
On December 13, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) announced new Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings (“CDPH Guidance”), implementing a mandatory mask mandate for individuals (employees and patrons) in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccination status, beginning on December 15, 2021 through at least January 15, 2022. The CDPH Guidance requires that masks be worn by all individuals over the age of two, unless exempt for disability-related or medical condition-based reasons, and recommends the use of surgical masks or higher-level respirators.
FAQs issued by the CDPH specify that the CDPH Guidance applies to workplaces, and clarify that local public health regulations remain in effect for localities that have previously adopted face covering measures prior to issuance of the CDPH Guidance that apply regardless of vaccination status. That is, the CDPH Guidance only applies to local health jurisdictions that do not have existing indoor masking requirements. Notably, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (“SFDPH”) has taken the position, in its updated Order and FAQs, that its own masking rules remain in place—including exemptions for “stable cohorts” with 100% vaccination rates, among other criteria. Marin County and Contra Costa County have taken similar positions regarding the applicability of local health order mask exceptions. It remains unclear whether local mask exceptions apply given the CDPH Guidance masking rules.
Counties across California are making a detour on the road to easing COVID-19 restrictions.
Los Angeles County
On July 16, 2021, Los Angeles County issued an Order of the Health Officer (“the Order”) that requires all persons to wear face masks while in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and businesses (i.e., office workplaces, retail, restaurants, theaters, meetings), with limited exceptions. In indoor settings where there is close contact with unvaccinated individuals, the Order recommends that people consider wearing a higher level of protection, such as ...
As we previously reported, on June 9, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA”) Standards Board (“the Board”) withdrew its prior proposed revisions to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”), effectively returning to the original ETS approved in November 2020. A week later, however, on June 17, 2021, the Board approved revisions to the ETS (“Revised ETS”) which, among other things, align with current guidance from the California Department of Public Health ...
It has been an active week in California with the release of new statewide face covering guidance, the alignment of Los Angeles County and San Francisco with this guidance, and the withdrawal of the revised Cal/OSHA Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (the “Board”).
Of most importance, covered employers and workplaces must continue to comply with the more restrictive original Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that have been in place since November 2020, not
On Monday, December 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific, our colleague Alka Ramchandani will be a featured speaker in a webinar hosted by California Employer Resources.
Ms. Ramchandani will identify the potential risks and liability associated with retaining temporary workers in California. She will provide strategies on how to minimize risk and liability when hiring temporary workers by ensuring all contractual agreements, expectations, and performance requirements are in place.
As California companies hire more temporary workers to deal with economic, staffing, and ...
By the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker & Green
As we closed the book on 2013 -- a truly remarkable year of OSHA enforcement and regulatory activity -- we look to the future, and think about what to expect from OSHA in 2014. Over the next couple of weeks, we will roll out what we believe are the 5 most significant OSHA developments to monitor in 2014.
If you are interested in how accurate our past predictions have been, take a look at these articles from December 2011 forecasting five OSHA developments for 2012 and from December 2012 predicting three developments from OSHA in 2013.
Without further ado, here are the 5 OSHA-related developments you should anticipate in 2014, so says the collective wisdom of the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker & Green:
1. A Busy OSHA Rulemaking Docket
Although OSHA enforcement has reached levels never seen before by every measure, rulemaking activity under the current Administration has been slow. During President Obama’s first term, OSHA identified numerous rulemaking initiatives in its periodic Regulatory Agenda updates, including rules for combustible dust, Crystalline Silica, Beryllium, and an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) rule. All of these proposed rules, however, missed important rulemaking deadlines or were completely set-aside. We expect that to change in 2014 and for the balance of this Administration, as the OSHA leadership team will strive to leave their legacy.
Just as we saw OSHA deemphasize rulemaking in the year leading up to the 2012 Presidential election, we are already seeing signs of a typical post-election, second term, aggressive rulemaking calendar from OSHA. The first sign of the new rulemaking push could be seen in speeches by David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, who characterized the proposed I2P2 rule as his and OSHA’s “highest priority.” Second, OSHA recently issued its Fall 2013 Regulatory Agenda, which, as we expected, returned several rulemaking initiatives, including the I2P2 rule, from the backburner, where they were deposited prior to the 2012 Presidential Election, back to the active rulemaking calendar. Finally, OSHA has also introduced new rules, such as a proposed rule to require employers to proactively report to OSHA injuries and illnesses, not just record them on the 300 Log. Check out our article about a burdensome new Injury & Illness Reporting Rule advanced by OSHA. Other important rules in the proposed or pre-rule stage to monitor in the coming year include:
- Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica (comments and hearings coming due early in 2014)
- Request for Information about the Process Safety Management Standard (including a reevaluation of the exemption of above ground atmospheric storage tanks)
- Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (now in the Final Rule stage)
- Review/Lookback of OSHA Chemical Standards (an effort to make wholesale changes to existing chemical exposure limits)
2. OSHA Will Focus on Temporary Worker Safety
The treatment of temporary workers is expected to become more significant as the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is implemented, particularly when the “Employer Mandate” kicks in. The ACA will require employers with 50 or more workers to provide affordable coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours per week. This will result in employers using more part-time workers and hiring more contractors; i.e., workers who will not be counted towards the 50-worker minimum for ACA coverage. Both qualities are commonly associated with “temporary workers.”
With an expected increase in the use of temporary workers, along with recent reports of temporary workers suffering fatal workplace injuries on their first days on a new job, OSHA will make temporary worker safety a top priority in 2014, and has already launched a Temporary Worker Initiative. OSHA’s stated goals for the Temporary Worker Initiative are to:
- Protect temporary workers from workplace hazards;
- Ensure staffing agencies and host employers understand their safety & health obligations; and
- Learn information regarding hazards in workplaces that utilize temporary workers.
To achieve these goals, OSHA is developing outreach materials (such as fact sheets and webpages), and will use a combination of enforcement and training, but based on OSHA’s track record, we expect this will involve mostly enforcement. OSHA’s director of enforcement programs already issued a memorandum to its Regional Administrators instructing them to increase efforts to investigate employers’ use and protection of temporary workers. This side of the Temporary Work Initiative is already showing results. In the last quarter of FY 2013 alone, OSHA issued citations at 262 worksites where temporary workers were allegedly exposed to safety and health violations. Additionally, OSHA has conducted more than twice as many inspections of staffing agencies this year as it did last year. This trend will undoubtedly continue in 2014, so it is critical for host employers and staffing agencies to understand the dividing line of responsibility for addressing hazards to which temporary workers are exposed.
3. Hazard Communication Comes Into Focus
December 1, 2013 marked the first key implementation deadline of OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard, which was recently amended to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
In recent years, Cal-OSHA has taken an aggressive stance against exposing employees to potential heat illness, often citing employers and proposing significant penalties for failing to provide to employees who work in high heat conditions with adequate drinking water, shade, training, and/or cool-down periods. Furthermore, as noted by the California Supreme Court in Brinker v. Superior Court, monetary remedies for the denial of meal and rest breaks “engendered a wave of wage and hour class action litigation” when added to the California Labor Code more than a decade ago.
The California Legislature has brought these two trends together by amending California Labor Code Section 226.7 to include penalties for employers’ failing to provide “Cool Down Recovery Periods” (“CDRPs”) to prevent heat exhaustion or stroke. The requirement to provide CDRPs kicks in January 1, 2014, after which California employers will be required to pay a wage premium for failing to provide CDRPs to employees. This premium pay is akin to the premium pay already required for violations of California’s meal period and rest break laws. The amendment is sure to trigger substantial litigation in California, and cross over into Cal/OSHA enforcement as well.
California’s Heat Illness Prevention Statute
California employers have long been aware of California’s Heat Illness Prevention statute, Title 8 Section 3395(d), which obligates employers to provide training and access to shade and adequate drinking water for employees who work outdoors in high heat conditions. Pursuant to the Heat Illness statute, employers have also been required to maintain one or more shaded areas, with either open-air ventilation, forced ventilation, or forced cooling, and employers are required to allow employee access and encourage employees to access these shaded or cooled areas for cool down periods of no less than five minutes or as employees feel the need to do so. Historical Cal-OSHA Board decisions and Standard Board committee notes have refused to characterize these cool down periods as work-free breaks; i.e., employers may require employees to continue working during periods when they are in shade or air conditioned locations.
Although heat illness has been an enforcement focus across the country, Cal-OSHA is the only OSHA scheme that has its own Heat Illness specific standard. While federal OSHA has increased its use of the General Duty Clause to cite heat illness issues, Cal-OSHA has led the way in this enforcement space.
California Labor Code Section 226.7
Pursuant to California Labor Code section 226.7, employers are already required to pay a penalty of one hour of pay for any failure to provide a non-exempt employee with a meal period and an additional hour of pay for any failure to provide a non-exempt employee with a rest break. This law has produced numerous class action lawsuits throughout California. Under the recent CDRP amendment, any failure to provide a cool down recovery period will obligate the employer to pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that a recovery period is not provided. Employers now face more than just serious citations under Section 3395(d), but also cited or sued by employees (or classes of employees) for failure to provide CDRPs pursuant to California Labor Code Section 226.7.
Pursuant to this statute, California employers have suffered through a barrage of wage and hour single plaintiff and class action lawsuits related to California’s meal and rest break requirements under Section 226.7. This recent history has shown that compliance with these work-free periods is difficult, and demonstrating compliance is even more so. More importantly, the potential penalties and civil judgments are extremely high.
The Amended Statute
On October 10, 2013, that changed. The California Legislature joined Cal-OSHA’s cause and signed a new bill into effect amending California Labor Code Section 226.7 to include penalties for failure to provide CDRPs. Section 226.7 provides in pertinent part:
If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal or rest or recovery period in accordance with a state law, including, but not limited to, an applicable statute or applicable regulation, standard, or order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest or recovery period is not provided.
By Eric J. Conn
In what seems to be a trend, OSHA has again delayed its rulemaking process for an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (commonly known as I2P2) standard. The announcement came during a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health meeting in late June. According to OSHA officials, we should not expect the next rulemaking phase, a small business review process, to begin until at least Labor Day. I2P2 programs, which aim to reduce workplace injuries by requiring employers to proactively find and fix workplace hazards, have been on OSHA’s regulatory ...
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