By Benjamin D. BriggsPatrick D. Joyce, Ilana R. Morady, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: On September 17, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued, Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted unanimously to draft a COVID-19 temporary emergency standard and a permanent infectious disease standard, with a deadline for consideration at their November 19 meeting. The Board believes an ETS would improve COVID-19 worker safety for California workers and give the Agency greater enforcement powers to hold employers accountable.

The Board’s September meeting considered the following agenda item for approval:

[A]mend Title 8 standards to create two new regulations. The first, a temporary emergency standard that would provide specific protections to California employees who may have exposure to COVID-19, but who are not protected by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standards (Sections 5199 and 5199.1). The second standard would be a permanent rulemaking effort to protect workers from infectious diseases including novel pathogens (e.g. COVID-19).

According to the LA Times, the Board voted to approve the proposal unanimously. While there are existing safety rules and guidelines related to COVID-19 that employers are encouraged to follow, subject to fines from Cal/OSHA, the new standard is expected to provide specific steps employers can take to better protect employees from possible outbreaks, with the goal of alleviating confusion while strengthening oversight.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.