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California Cal/OSHA Approves the Readoption of the ETS for a Third Time

On April 21, 2022, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) approved the third readoption of the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and is set become effective on May 6, 2022, and expire on December 31, 2022. HR Works has previously reported on the California ETS and further information regarding the original requirements can be found here.

With this third iteration of the ETS and what many hope to be the final readoption of the Cal/OSHA ETS, there have been a number of revisions that aim to provide more flexibility when dealing with COVID-19 matters in the workplace. Below is a list of revisions that have occurred with this new readoption:

  • Testing Requirements: Employees have the ability to utilize self-administered or self-read tests (including at-home antigen tests) without having to be proctored by an authorized individual either in person or while on video. Test results can be verified independently, for instance through the use of a time-stamped photo.
  • Changes in Definitions/Terminology:
    • Added “returned case:” refers to workers who have had COVID-19 and have subsequently returned to work within the past 90 days while remaining free of symptoms.
    • Change of terminology for “high risk exposure period” to “infectious period.” However, the term remains defined as “a period of time for COVID-19 cases who develop COVID-19 symptoms, from two days before they first develop symptoms until all of the following are true: it has been 10 days since symptoms first appeared; 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications; and symptoms have improved or for COVID-19 cases who never develop COVID-19 symptoms, from two days before until 10 days after the specimen for their first positive test for COVID-19 was collected.”
    • Removed any reference to the term “fully vaccinated.”
  • Removal of Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures
  • Return to Work Criteria: Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status or previous infection, who do not develop COVID-19 symptoms or whose COVID-19 symptoms are resolving, must not return to work until:
    • At least five days have passed from the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if the person does not develop COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of first positive COVID-19 test;
    • At a minimum, 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
    • A negative COVID-19 test from a specimen collected on the fifth day or later is obtained; or, if unable to test or the employer chooses not to require a test, 10 days have passed from the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or if the person does not develop COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of first positive COVID-19 test.
  • Close Contact: elimination of the exclusion for close contacts and instead calls for employers to “review current CDPH guidance for persons who had close contacts, including any guidance regarding quarantine or other measures to reduce transmission.”
  • Face Coverings: the definition of coverings has changed to allow for masks that allow light to pass through the fabric. However, masking for employees is no longer required indoors, regardless of vaccination status, unless specifically required by the CDPH. Additionally, the requirements surrounding maintaining a six-foot distance from those unable to wear a face covering have been withdrawn.

Next Steps for Employers

Even with the added flexibility that employers have been granted through the revised ETS, employers still need to mindful of the pre-existing requirements that will remain in place. For example, Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 health and safety requirements still include conducting health screening, mandatory testing in certain circumstances, and contact tracing. Finally, Cal/OSHA has announced that a new set of COVID-19 FAQs will be posted in the coming weeks. However, the current set of FAQs that were last updated as of January 14, 2022, can be found here.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.