03.16.2020 | COVID-19

Cal/OSHA Coronavirus Guidance

COVID-19 Client Alerts:

Cal/OSHA Coronavirus Guidance

Neither Cal/OSHA (which California employers follow), nor Fed OSHA, have specific regulations pertaining to COVID-19, as of yet. However, there are a number of pre-existing regulations that may be pertinent to employers and their obligations to protect their workforce from COVID-19. For instance, some employers are specifically required to abide by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standards to protect employees from airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19. However, those Standards are specific to certain employers including, but not limited to, hospitals, nursing facilities, medical offices, laboratories, homeless shelters, and other locations specifically advised by Cal/OSHA that they must comply with the ATD standard.

For all employers however, Cal/OSHA is advising they follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), February 2020, at this link.

These guidelines include prevention measures such as: 
  • Actively encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • Sending employees with acute respiratory illness symptoms home immediately.
  • Providing information and training to employees on:
    • Cough and sneeze etiquette
    • Hand hygiene
    • Avoiding close contact with sick persons
    • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
    • Avoiding sharing personal items with co-workers (i.e. dishes, cups, utensils, towels)
    • Providing tissues, no-touch disposal trash cans and hand sanitizer for use by employees
  • Performing routine environmental cleaning of shared workplace equipment and furniture (disinfection beyond routine cleaning is not recommended)
  • Advising employees to check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices prior to travel.
The CDC guidelines also contain recommendations for an infectious disease outbreak response plan to be followed in case of an outbreak, including:
  • Allowing flexible worksites, telecommuting, and flexible work hours to increase physical distance among employees.
  • Minimizing exposure between employees and between employees and the public.
  • Postponing or canceling large work-related meetings or events.
Cal/OSHA also notes there are some general regulations that may become relevant during the COVID-19 outbreak, including:
1. Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)

All employers are required to have an IIPP.  Cal/OSHA states employers are required to determine if COVID-19 infection is a hazard in their workplace pursuant to the procedures specified in the IIPP.  If it is a workplace hazard, then employers must:

a. Implement measures to prevent or reduce infection hazards, such as implementing the CDC’s published recommendations stated above; and
b. Provide training to employees on their COVID-19 infection prevention methods.
2. Washing Facilities

Regardless of COVID-19 risk, Cal/OSHA requires all employers to provide washing facilities that have an adequate supply of suitable cleansing agents, water and single-use towels or blowers.

3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The PPE regulations require employers to conduct a hazard assessment to determine if hazards are present in the workplace that necessitate the use of PPE. If an employer identifies COVID-19 as a workplace hazard, they must select and provide exposed employees with properly fitting PPE that will effectively protect employees.

4. Control of Harmful Exposures

The Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to protect employees from inhalation of exposures that can result in injury, illness, disease, impairment or loss of function. COVID-19 is a harmful exposure if there is an increased risk of infection at the workplace. Employers must implement engineering controls where feasible and administrative controls where practicable, or provide respiratory protection where engineering and administrative controls cannot protect employees and during emergencies. The CDC recommendations above describe some useful administrative controls. According to Cal/OSHA, surgical and other non-respirator face masks do not protect persons from airborne infectious disease and cannot be relied upon for novel pathogens. They do not prevent inhalation of virus particles because they do not seal to the person’s face and are not tested to the filtration efficiencies of respirators.



Fed OSHA Coronavirus Website: 



Copyright © 2020, Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP. All rights reserved. Please be assured that we make every effort to make certain that the information contained in this alert is current at the time this email was delivered. Because laws and legislation are constantly changing, please contact us if you are unsure whether this material is still current. Nothing contained herein should be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended to be for general information purposes only. We assume no liability in connection with the use of the information contained in this article. Given the rapidly evolving nature of legal and governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, unfolding events likely will supersede many of the issues discussed in these updates. We encourage you to contact our lawyers directly for the most current information and counsel regarding legal and governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact us to answer any questions you may have.

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