What California Employers Should Know About The Cal/OSHA ETS

As of January 14, 2022 the Cal/OSHA Standards Board has re-adopted and revised the previously issued emergency temporary standards (ETS), with the latest order from the California Department of Public Health becoming effective March 1, 2022. While vaccine mandates are not a part of these re-adopted standards, there are some key provisions that affect California-based employers.

Based on the latest Cal/OSHA ETS, here’s what you need to know. 

What Are Cal/OSHA ETS?

Initially enacted in November of 2020, Cal/OSHA ETS provided guidelines for the ways in which employers should respond to COVID-19. These guidelines stipulated that businesses––among other concerns––implement COVID-19 prevention programs, develop sanitary procedures, and establish a protocol for contact with infected persons.

These initial temporary standards were revised the first time in June of 2021, and they have once again been updated as of March 1, 2022. These standards are subject to change, meaning employers must be prepared to quickly adapt to new COVID-19 safety protocols. 

What Are The Main Requirements of the Cal/OSHA ETS?

Effective March 1, 2022 employers in California can choose to follow the indoor public setting recommendations. This includes: 

  • Develop a written COVID-19 prevention program and communicate its actionables to employees.
  • Provide unvaccinated employees with NIOSH-certified respirator masks for voluntary use when: working indoors, or in a vehicle with others.
  • Provide testing at no cost to employees who’ve come into close contact with an infected person.
  • Remove from the workplace any positive cases of COVID-19 until these people no longer present a risk of infection to others.
  • Solicit and maintain records of all COVID-19 cases in the workplace, and report serious cases of illness to Cal/OSHA and the appropriate local health department.

Which Employers Must Comply with Cal/OSHA ETS?

The emergency temporary standards apply to all employers, employees, and places of employment in California. However, there are exceptions for:

  • Workplaces with only one employee who does not come into contact with other people.
  • Employees who work entirely from home or another teleworking location such as a hotel or cafe.
  • Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.

With many workplaces currently offering hybrid work models, in which employees combine telecommuting with in-person work, it’s important to note that the standards do apply to these workers. 

Are Vaccinations Mandated Through the Cal/OSHA ETS?

In recent months, vaccine mandates have been a hotly debated topic among both politicians and business leaders. While many suspected California would implement policies of mandatory vaccination for large employers, this is not the case.

According to the Cal/OSHA ETS, employers are not required to mandate vaccination among their employees; however, employees may choose to implement these policies and request proof of vaccination from employees. Fully vaccinated employees must still abide by other requirements of the ETS, including face covering and testing measures. 

Documentation of Vaccination Status

Under the ETS, an employee is considered fully vaccinated either two weeks after receiving a primary vaccination (in the case of single-dose vaccines) or two weeks after receiving the second dose of a vaccine that requires a two-dose series. For employers, the question becomes one of maintaining accurate records of these vaccinations.

The temporary standards do not mandate a particular means of documenting their employees’ vaccination status; rather, they only require that the information be kept confidential. Acceptable methods include:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card, or health care document showing vaccination status), and the employer maintains a copy.
  • Employees provide proof of vaccination, and the employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof but not the vaccine record itself.
  • Employees self-attest to vaccination status, and the employer maintains a record of who self-attests.

Additionally, the ETS stipulates that employers should treat all employees as unvaccinated and take the most protective steps available such as requiring all employees to wear a face covering. 

Safe, Secure, Simple Tracking

While employers don’t have to require employees to get vaccinated, they are required to take adequate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect their teams. Especially with the phenomenon of breakthrough infections, it would behoove any employer to implement a policy of regular testing.

By tracking both test results and vaccination records of workers, employers can better ensure both safety of their teams and adherence to Cal/OSHA standards. With that said, depending on the size of your business, soliciting, logging, and monitoring extensive records of vaccines and tests could prove to be a cumbersome task. In these cases, it’s best to implement employee vaccine and testing tracking software.

ConfirmD is a turnkey enterprise solution for COVID-19 policy adherence. With this software, businesses can track vaccine records and test results––often coming from a variety of sources––in one easy-to-use platform. No matter where workers obtain their vaccines or tests, they can securely upload them through the ConfirmD app, wherein designated team members can keep tabs on the status of employees’ health.

To adapt to the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 regulations, it takes a careful implementation of strategies, both in terms of physical and digital space. By using a vaccine and testing tracking software, you can ensure that your teams are kept safe and that you’re abiding by the most recent guidelines.

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