Protecting Workers From Coronavirus

As businesses begin to reopen and Californians head back to work, COVID-19 is on the minds of many if not all.  There are various state, county and federal agencies that are providing guidance to employers pertaining to COVID-19 and in this article, we will review some of the current recommendations/requirements for California employers.

The infectious disease regulation (CCR Title 8 §5199 Aerosol Transmissible Diseases) protects workers from potential exposure from diseases such as COVID-19, however this regulation is only a requirement for workplaces at high risk for infectious diseases such as:

  1. Hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, clinics, medical offices, outpatient medical facilities, home health care, long-term health care facilities, hospices, medical outreach services, medical transport and emergency medical services.
  2. Certain laboratories, public health services and police services that are reasonably anticipated to expose employees to an aerosol transmissible disease.
  3. Correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and drug treatment programs.
  4. Coroner’s offices, mortuaries, funeral homes, and other facilities that perform aerosol generating procedures on cadavers.
  5. Any other locations when Cal/OSHA informs employers in writing that they must comply with the ATD Standard.

So, what if you’re an employer in another industry where the infectious disease regulation doesn’t apply?  As a California employer you are REQUIRED to have an IIPP (CCR Title 8 §3203 Injury and Illness Prevention Program) which protects employees from various workplace hazards including infectious diseases such as COVID-19.  If it is determined that COVID-19 is a workplace hazard at your business then it is mandatory that you update your Injury and Illness Prevention Program to include necessary information to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 specific to your workplace.  As part of your IIPP protocol identify areas and job tasks with potential exposure and include infection prevention measures such as reconfiguring office/work areas.

In addition to general safety practices such as physical distancing, frequent handwashing and cleaning/disinfecting, the following are also common recommendations amongst the various agencies for employers:

  1. Face coverings should be used by employees where respiratory protection is not required. Cal/OSHA is not recommending respirators or masks for most workers at this time, but requirements across the State are updated regularly.  Note: The State of California currently requires face coverings be worn in common and public indoor spaces and outdoors when distancing is not possible.
  2. Have a process in place, such as temperature and symptom screening, to identify any new cases of COVID-19 at the workplace. Self-reporting seems to be acceptable at this time.
  3. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 inform other employees of a potential exposure and temporarily close the area where the employee worked including public areas such as restrooms and breakrooms. During the temporary closure clean and disinfect the workplace areas with EPA approved disinfectants for COVID-19.
  4. Provide COVID-19 informational training (in an understandable language) to employees. Instruct employees about actions they can take to protect themselves and the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace (e.g. identifying symptoms, hygiene protocol, etc.)

As an employer it’s important now more than ever to be proactive and keep your workers safe while also helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Of course there are many other resources that can provide you with more detailed information such as The Cal/OSHA website “Guidance and Resource” page  This link provides documents (including checklists) and videos by industry to help employers take steps to protect workers from exposure to infectious diseases like COVID-19.  In addition Federal OSHA has also made a publication available for download titled Guidance On Returning To Work (OSHA 4045-06 2020).  This publication provides information on various phases of reopening and how to apply principles such as Hazard Assessments, Hygiene, Controls, etc.  Make sure you also look into the CDC and local county websites for more information, requirements and recommendations.

Contact The Cohen Group if you require assistance pertaining to compliance.  We have been assisting many employers in various workplaces including construction, agriculture, general office, and food manufacturing to assure that they have instituted protective COVID programs and have updated their Injury and Illness Prevention Program.