By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force
Not to be outdone by Virginia OSHA, Oregon OSHA, or Michigan OSHA, Cal/OSHA is on the precipice of issuing an onerous COVID-19 specific regulation that is expected to be issued, with all provisions immediately effective, next week. Below is detailed summary of how we got here, as well as an outline of what the California rule will require.
On November 19, 2020, the California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Board”) voted unanimously to adopt an Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Rule following a contentious public hearing with over 500 participants in attendance (albeit virtually). The Emergency Rule has been presented to California’s Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) for approval and publication. OAL has ten days to approve the Rule; if approved, the Rule will become immediately effective, likely next Monday, November 30th. The Rule brings with it a combination of requirements overlapping with and duplicative of already-existing state and county requirements applicable to employers, as well as a number of new and, in some cases, very burdensome, compliance obligations.
The Board’s emergency rulemaking was triggered last May with the submission of a Petition for an emergency rulemaking filed by worker advocacy group WorkSafe and National Lawyers’ Guild, Labor & Employment Committee. The Petition requested the Board amend Title 8 standards to create two new regulations – the first, a temporary emergency standard that would provide specific protections to California employees who may experience exposure to COVID-19, but who are not already covered by Cal/OSHA’s existing Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard (section 5199, which applies generally to healthcare employers); and the second, a regular rulemaking for a permanent infectious diseases standard, including novel pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2. Note that emergency rulemakings are rare and must meet a very high threshold designed to allow this abbreviated process; only when a true emergency necessitates this process. Here is a very simplified flowchart of the emergency standards rulemaking process.
Interestingly, the Standard Board’s staff found that a new COVID-19 rule was unnecessary because much of the proposed requirements recommended by WorkSafe’s Petition are already addressed under Cal/OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard (“IIPP”), and therefore, recommended that the Petition be denied. DOSH staff, however, recommended that the Petition be approved, finding that an emergency regulation is warranted by the COVID-19 public health crisis and that the agency’s enforcement efforts would benefit from a specific regulatory mandate related to COVID-19.
On September 17th, the Standards Board accepted DOSH’s recommendation, finding that Continue reading