November 23, 2020

Could California COVID Rule Be Adopted By OSHA? Yes

The state of California recently approved a strict new mandatory COVID-related workplace safety regulation that is similar to rules organized labor organizations have been lobbying the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) to adopt. Labor unions also are pushing other states to adopt the rule.

So far, OSHA has declined to acquiesce to these demands, but new agency leadership under President-elect Joe Biden would likely reverse course and agree with labor organizations.

Under the California rule, public and private employers could face steeper penalties if they are found to be in violation of safety standards, and citations would be more likely to stick since they would have the force of a regulation behind them.

According to The Sacramento Bee, the California Chamber of Commerce warned the standards would mean “big employers with hundreds of employees could be defined as in a perpetual outbreak” and would harm smaller employers in more rural areas that “have limited medical infrastructure” and may not be able to test every employee.

The rule, available here, would require employers to:

  • Implement detailed hazard assessment and training plans.
  • Provide personal protective equipment and mandate the use of facial coverings;
  • Identify and fix COVID-19 hazards with the help of workers;
  • Notify all potentially exposed employees and offer them testing;
  • Pay workers while they are quarantined;
  • Report all outbreaks to local health departments; and more.