What are the Cal/OSHA requirements for reporting occurrences of COVID-19 in the workplace?

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) enacted a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that details specific notification and reporting requirements for when there is a COVID-19 case in the workplace.

The ETS defines a “COVID-19 case” as someone who:

  • Has a positive COVID-19 test;
  • Has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider;
  • Is subject to a COVID-19-related order to isolate issued by a local or state health official; or
  • Has died due to COVID-19, in the determination of a local health department or per inclusion in the COVID-19 statistics of the country.

Under the ETS, when the employer knows or should have known there is a COVID-19 case in the workplace, employers must identify the last day and time that the COVID-19 case was at the worksite, determine who may have had “close contact” based on specified criteria, and provide written notice of the potential exposure, within one business day, to all employees and independent contractors at the worksite during the high-risk exposure period, as defined.

The written notice must be in a form readily understandable by employees and may be accomplished by personal service, email or text message, if it can reasonably be anticipated that the employee will receive it within one business day of being sent. It must also include the employer’s disinfection plan.

If the employer should reasonably know that an employee hasn't received the notice, or has limited literacy in the language used in the notice, the employer must provide verbal notice, as soon as practicable, in a language understood by the employee.

The ETS also specifies that employers must report any information to the local health department required by law, including AB 685 (Labor Code section 6409.6), which requires employers to report COVID-19 outbreaks to the local health department.

For non-health care workplaces, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) defines outbreak as three or more COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period. Once this threshold is met, you have 48 hours to report to the local health department in the jurisdiction where the worksite is located. Employers also must continue to notify the local health department of additional COVID-19 cases identified among workers at the worksite.

When reporting to the local health department, employers must report the following information:

  • Information about the worksite – name of company/institution, business address and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry code of the worksite where the qualified individual works.
  • Names and occupations of workers with COVID-19.
  • Additional information requested by the local health department as part of their investigation.

For more information on Cal/OSHA’s new COVID-19 emergency standard and AB 685, review the following guidance:

Additionally, employers may need to record COVID-19 cases on their Log 300 if the case triggers ordinary Log 300 requirements. Cal/OSHA published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the topic.

Read more about Recording Work-Related Injury and Illness in the HR Library.

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