What rules do we need to follow when our employees return back to the worksite?

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers trying to keep their doors open had to do their best to make sense of a patchwork of rules, orders and guidance from various agencies that seemed to change continually. As time went on, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) took the lead on workplace safety rules with its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that went into effect in late 2020.

Revised most recently in May 2022, the ETS remains the primary consideration for employers getting employees back into the workplace. The ETS requires employers to implement and maintain a written COVID-19 Prevention Program that addresses:

  • System of Communicating COVID-19-Related Information.
  • Identification and Evaluation of Hazards.
  • Investigating and Responding to COVID-19 Cases in the Workplace.
  • Correcting Workplace COVID-19 Hazards.
  • Effective Training and Instruction to Employees Regarding COVID-19.
  • Face Coverings.
  • Other Infection Controls and Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Reporting, Recordkeeping and Employee Access to Employer COVID-19 Records.
  • Excluding Employees from the Worksite and Job Protection.
  • Return to Work Criteria.

Employers can read more in CalChamber’s white paper Revised Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Workplace Rules: What Employers Need to Know and use CalChamber’s COVID-19 Prevention Program Checklist to ensure their program addresses all the required topics and issues.

Employers must also monitor California Department of Public Health guidance, which can impact the ETS rules in certain circumstances, for example, isolation and quarantine periods and face covering rules.

The Cal/OSHA ETS is expected to remain in effect until December 31, 2022.

For more detailed information on Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS, review the following guidance:

In addition to the ETS, California has a COVID-19 workplace notification law requiring employers, within one business day of learning of a potential exposure to COVID-19, to provide written notice to employees, and employers of subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same time as the COVID-19 case within the infectious period that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, along with information about COVID-19 related benefits they may be entitled to and information about the employer’s disinfection and safety plan. Employers can use CalChamber’s COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Notification Checklists to ensure they comply with notification requirements.

On top of California’s requirements, employers must continually monitor and comply with local ordinances applicable to their workforce. Local ordinances may implement face covering requirements above and beyond the state’s and may also provide for COVID-19-related paid sick leave or vaccine leave.

Visit HRCalifornia’s Local Ordinances section for detailed information on local employment-related ordinances in California, including COVID-19-related ordinances.