• On November 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to adopt comprehensive and complex COVID-19 emergency regulations addressing a variety of issues related to COVID-19 in the workplace. The regulations were approved and took effect on November 30, 2020.

Read about a recent agency action.

The new standard directs employers to create a detailed written COVID-19 prevention program covering communication, identifying and responding to COVID-19 hazards, training, safety measures, recordkeeping, reporting and more. It also requires employers to provide COVID-19 notifications to employees and local health departments in certain circumstances, similar to the new state law requirements summarized above.

Under the emergency regulation, when there is a COVID-19 case in the workplace, employers must identify the last day and time the “COVID-19 case” (defined as someone with a positive COVID-19 test, subject to an isolation order, or who has died due to COVID-19) was at the worksite, determine who may have been exposed based on specified criteria, and provide notice of the potential exposure, within one business day, to “all employees who may have had COVID-19 exposure and their authorized representatives,” and to “independent contractors and other employers present at the workplace during the high-risk exposure period,” as defined.1 Employers must also offer testing to employees potentially exposed and provide them with information on benefits they may be entitled to, such as workers' compensation, paid sick leave, etc.

The new regulation also contains outbreak criteria that trigger additional reporting requirements. If there are three or more COVID-19 cases in the workplace in a two-week period, employers must report to the local health department within 48 hours.2 Under those circumstances, employers must report the total number of COVID-19 cases, the name, contact information, occupation, workplace location, business address, hospitalization or fatality status, and NAICS worksite code. Employers must continue to give notice to their local health departments of any subsequent COVID-19 cases at the workplace.

Employers should note that the definition of outbreak in the regulation differs slightly from those of AB 685. The state requirement defers to the CDPH definition of outbreak, currently defining it as three cases in a 14-day period. The regulation broadens the definition by including a place of employment “identified by a local health department as the location of a COVID-19 outbreak.”

Employers must keep records of all COVID-19 cases with the employee's name, contact information, occupation, location where the employee worked, the date of their last day at the workplace, and the date of a positive COVID-19 test. Medical information must be kept confidential.

This regulation applies to most employees and places of employment, but it does not apply to:

  • Places of employment with one employee who does not have contact with other persons.
  • Employees working from home.
  • Employees covered by CalOSHA's aerosol transmission standard (e.g., certain health care facilities, laboratories, etc.).3

The notice requirements under the emergency regulation are very similar state's new COVID-19 exposure notification requirements described above. However, the regulatory and statutory language differ in some of their definitions and terminology. The inconsistencies /have raised some uncertainty among employers seeking to comply with all the new requirements. Cal/OSHA issued three initial guidance documents to help employers navigate the new standard — a FAQ page, a brief fact sheet at and a model written COVID-19 Prevention Program at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/CPP.doc. Employers should continue to monitor Cal/OSHA and the California Department of Public Health websites for guidance and consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all COVID-19 notification requirements.

To read more about Cal/OSHA's new COVID-19 Prevention Program requirements, see “IIPP and COVID-19” in Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

COVID-19 Reporting and Workers' Compensation

On September 17, 2020, California also enacted COVID-19 reporting requirements in the context of workers compensation.

When an employer with five or more employees “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer must inform their workers' compensation carrier within three business days of the following:

  • An employee tested positive,
  • The date when the employee tested positive,
  • The address of the employee's worksite, and
  • The highest number of employees who reported to the worksite within 45 days of when the employee last worked.

Employers should consult with their workers' compensation carriers and legal counsel with any specific questions about this new reporting requirement.

Employers can use CalChamber's COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Notification Checklist that guides employers through all the various COVID-19 notice and reporting requirements.

Recording Work-Related COVID-19 Cases On Log 300

Cal/OSHA requires employers to record work-related illnesses on their Log 300 when one of the following things happen:

  • Death.
  • Days away from work.
  • Restricted work or transfer to another job.
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.

COVID-19 cases may meet these criteria, so employers will likely have to record COVID-19 illnesses on their Log 300, in addition to the new recording requirements described above.


For Log 300 recording purposes, when is an illness presumed work-related?

If it results from events or exposure in the work environment, such as interaction with COVID-19 positive individuals, working in the same area or sharing items with COVID-19 positive individuals. Employers should evaluate the employee's duties, environment and interactions to determine the likelihood the employee was exposed at work.

When must I report COVID-19 cases to Cal/OSHA?

Employers must report COVID-19 cases directly to Cal/OSHA if the illness is work-related and results in a serious injury or death. Because protocols for recording and reporting the virus may change over time, employers should regularly consult the Cal/OSHA website.

Do I need to report COVID-19 cases to my local health department?

Employers must also report “outbreaks” and “major outbreaks” to their local public health agency within 48 hours of the outbreak occurring.

What’s considered an “outbreak” or a “major outbreak”?

At the time of publication, “outbreak” is defined as either three employees with lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases within a two-week period or as defined by your local health department. Because this definition may change over time, employers should stay up to date with the California Department of Public Health , as well as your local health orders.

A “major outbreak” is defined as 20 or more cases in a 30-day period.

Do I have to notify other employees when an employee tests positive?

Employers are required to provide notices to different groups of employees (and their exclusive representative, if any), the employers of subcontracted employees, and independent contractors within one business day of receiving a notice of a “potential exposure to COVID-19.”

What is considered a notification of a “potential exposure to COVID-19”?

Notification of a “potential exposure to COVID-19” means:

  • From a public health official or licensed medical provider that an employee was exposed to a “qualifying individual” at the worksite;
  • From an employee or their emergency contact that the employee is a “qualifying individual;”
  • Through the testing protocol of the employer that the employee is a “qualifying individual;” or
  • From a subcontracted employee that a “qualifying individual” was on the worksite.

What is a “potential exposure to COVID-19”?

The Cal/OSHA emergency regulations define “potential exposure to COVID-19” as being within six feet of a COVID-19 positive case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period.

Who is a “qualifying individual”?

A “qualifying individual” is someone who has:

  • A lab-confirmed case of COVID-19;
  • A COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider;
  • A COVID-19 isolation order provided by a public health official; or
  • Died due to COVID-19.

If my situation meets these criteria, what notices must I provide?

If these notice requirements are triggered, employers must:

  • Provide a written notice to all employees (and their exclusive representative, if any), the employers of subcontracted employees, and independent contractors who were on the premises at the same worksite as the “qualifying individual within the infectious period” that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Provide information to “all employees who may have been exposed” (and their exclusive representative, if any) with information regarding COVID-19-related benefits to which they may be entitled under federal, state or local laws, as well as employer provided benefits.
  • Notify all employees (and their exclusive representative, if any) of the disinfection and safety plan in place in accordance with CDC guidelines.

How do I distribute the notices?

This written notice may be hand-delivered, or given by e-mail or text message, in both English and any other language understood by the majority of employees.

Am I required to report anything to my workers’ compensation insurance carrier?

Yes. Whenever the employer knows or reasonably should know that an employee tested positive for COVID-19, it must report the following to its carrier within three business days of learning of the positive test:

  • An employee tested positive for COVID-19 without revealing the name of the employee;
  • The date the employee tested positive;
  • The address of the employee's worksite; and
  • The highest number of employees who reported to the worksite within 45 days of when the employee last worked.

Am I required to provide COVID-19 testing to my employees?

Cal/OSHA's emergency regulations require employers to provide COVID-19 testing at no cost to all employees present at the “exposed workplace” immediately after an “outbreak” occurs, and then again one week later.

Additionally, employers must provide twice a week COVID-19 testing at no cost to all employees present at the “exposed worksite” during a “major outbreak.”

These testing protocols must remain in effect until there are no new COVID-19 cases detected in the workplace for a 14-day period.

“Exposed workplace” means any work location, working area or common area at work used or accessed by the COVID-19 positive employee.

Are there any other requirements for responding to “outbreaks” or “major outbreaks”?

Yes, the IIPP rules require employers to do the following during an “outbreak”:

  • Exclude positive COVID-19 cases from the workplace until safe to return;
  • Investigate possible workplace factors that may have contributed to the “outbreak”; and
  • Review current COVID-19 policies, procedures and controls, and revise as necessary to address any hazardous conditions.

In addition, during a “major outbreak” an employer must:

  • Upgrade mechanical filtration units with at least Merv-13 filters, or the highest grade filter the unit will allow. Employers also should assess whether portable HEPA air filtrations will reduce risk;
  • Evaluate the need for a respiratory protection program;
  • Determine whether to halt some or all of its operations while correcting the hazards; and
  • Implement any other measures Cal/OSHA requires.

At the time of publication, Cal/OSHA's guidance on the topic states that COVID-19 cases should generally be lab confirmed, but confirmation is not necessary to trigger recording requirements. Due to testing shortages and other circumstances, there may be situations in which an employer must make a recordability determination even though testing did not occur. If the circumstances meet any of the criteria listed above, the case should be recorded. Cal/OSHA says employers should err on the side of recordability but clarified that "days spent away from work" do not include days spent quarantined.

For recording purposes, an illness is presumed work-related if it results from events or exposure in the work environment, such as interaction with COVID-19 positive individuals, or working in the same area or sharing items with COVID-19 positive individuals. Employers should evaluate the employee’s duties, environment and interactions to determine the likelihood the employee was exposed at work.

In some cases, employers may have to report COVID-19 cases directly to Cal/OSHA if it results in a serious injury or death.

Cal/OSHA guidance states that employers must report the serious illness regardless of whether it’s work-related. Also, employers should report serious illnesses if an employee becomes symptomatic outside of work, as long as there is some cause to believe the illness was contracted in connection with any employment, including, for example, other COVID-19 cases in the workplace, exposure to COVID-19 positive individuals, contact with the public, etc.

  • Additionally, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, California enacted a series of new COVID-19-specific recording and reporting requirements. Employers must be become familiar with these new requirements and when they are triggered. For more information, see COVID-19 Outbreaks and Reporting Requirements.

For more information, see Recording Serious Injury or Death.

1. 8 CCR sec. 3205(c)(3)

2. 8 CCR sec. 3205.1(f)

3. 8 CCR sec. 3205(a)