On December 16, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board voted to revise its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for the second time. The 2nd Revised ETS will go into effect January 14, 2022. More information is available in Cal/OSHA’s “What Employers Need to Know About the December 16 Standards Fact Sheet and COVID-19 ETS FAQs. Key revisions include:
Under the previous ETS, employers were not required to make testing available to fully vaccinated asymptomatic employees following close contact with a COVID-19 case in the workplace. The 2nd Revised ETS requires that such testing be made available to all close contact employees regardless of vaccination or symptom status. Additionally, during outbreaks and major outbreaks, employers must make testing available to fully vaccinated asymptomatic employees in the exposed group.
The 2nd Revised ETS also revises the definition of “COVID-19 test” to prohibit employees from using self-administered and self-read tests (i.e., home tests) unless the employer or a telehealth provider observes the test results.
Asymptomatic employees who are fully vaccinated and booster eligible, but have not yet received their booster dose, are not required to be excluded from the workplace after close contact with a COVID-19 case if they:
- wear a face covering for 10 calendar days following the last exposure,
- obtain a negative COVID-19 test three to five days after close contact, and
- remain symptom free.
Similar criteria apply to boosted employees and those who are vaccinated but not yet booster-eligible.
Return to Work Criteria
Although the 2nd Revised ETS contains updated return to work criteria for close contact employees, Cal/OSHA’s published Fact Sheet states “The period of time before an employee can return to work after ‘close contact’ or COVID-19 illness has been revised to be consistent with current CDPH guidelines. These timeframes will be automatically updated if CDPH updates their guidelines pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order.” The CDPH Guidance for Local Health Jurisdictions on Isolation and Quarantine of the General Public, which was updated on January 6, 2022 in response to revised CDC guidelines shortening recommended isolation/quarantine times, provides different guidelines for individuals who test positive and those who are exposed to someone with COVID-19. Notably, the guidelines for close contacts differ for individuals who are unvaccinated, fully vaccinated, or have received a booster. These guidelines are expected to change at both the federal and state level so employers should make their best efforts to stay on top of the most recent guidelines.
The 2nd Revised ETS also contains an updated definition of the types of acceptable face coverings. The primary clarification is that the mask fabric must not let light pass through when held up to a light source.
The 2nd Revised ETS is expected to remain in effect for at least 90 days, but Governor Newsom has issued an executive order permitting Cal/OSHA to issue a 3rd readoption of its COVID-19 standard so long as it does not extend beyond December 31, 2022.