California Adopts Emergency Standards to Protect Workers from COVID-19

CRLAF has been collaborating with community based organizations and other advocacy organizations to increase COVID-19 protections for farmworkers. After months of work, on September 17, 2020, the Cal-OSHA Standards Board unanimously approved a petition for development of an emergency regulation for protecting workers from COVID-19 hazards.

CRLAF provided input on the development of this standard and is happy to report that on November 20, 2020, the Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board unanimously adopted emergency temporary standards to protect workers from COVID-19 related hazards which will go into effect by December 1.

The temporary standards apply to most workers in California. Under these new regulations, employers must prepare a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan. Some of its requirements include that employers set up a communications structure around COVID-19 prevention procedures, symptoms and illnesses, testing, and a system for employees to report exposures without fear of retaliation. Employers' plans should also identify and correct conditions and work practices that may threaten one’s health or exposure to the virus. Employers will be required to remove workers who are both exposed and test positive for COVID-19 from the workplace with measures to protect their pay and benefits, and create criteria for employees to return to work after a recovery period. Worksites must develop requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks. There are also a set of specific requirements for infection prevention in employer-provided housing and work-based transportation.

Employers and workers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.

Complaints about workplace safety and health hazards can be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices. Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734).

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