Legal Alerts

COVID-19 Response: California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board Implements Sweeping New Regulations to Prevent COVID-19 in the Workplace

Los Angeles, Calif. (December 1, 2020) - On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) proposed sweeping and significant new emergency standards to reduce employee exposure to COVID-19. These standards have been accepted by the Office of Administrative Law and are effective as of November 30, 2020. Accordingly, it is critical that employers familiarize themselves with these new requirements and begin to implement these standards as quickly as possible.

The standards include COVID-19 prevention in the workplace, multiple COVID-19 infections and outbreaks in the workplace, “major” COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace, prevention in employer provided housing, and prevention in employer-provided transportation to and from work. They apply to all California employers and places of employment, except places with one employee who does not have contact with others, employees working from home, or employees in specified health care facilities, services or operations when covered by section 5199.

COVID-19 Prevention Program

Employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an “effective” written COVID-19 Prevention Program. Under the Program, an employer is responsible for developing a system for communicating about COVID-19, identifying and evaluating COVID-19 hazards, investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases, correcting COVID-19 hazards, providing training and instructions to employees regarding COVID-19, ensuring all employees are physically distanced, providing face coverings, implementing policies regarding personal protective equipment and recordkeeping, ensuring COVID-19 cases are excluded from the workplace, and prohibiting symptomatic employees from returning to work unless certain requirements are met.

Multiple COVID-19 Infections and COVID-19 Outbreaks

Employers which have offices or other locations that are identified as a location of a COVID-19 outbreak, or when there are three or more COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 14-day period, have additional obligations under these regulations. The additional obligations include providing no-cost COVID-19 testing to all employees exposed at the workplace, excluding all employees and potential exposures from the workplace, investigating possible factors that contributed to the outbreak, and reviewing potentially relevant COVID-19 policies, procedures and controls and implement changes as needed to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Additionally, employers have 48 hours to notify the local health department when they learn of three or more COVID-19 cases. Employers must comply with these additional obligations until there are no new COVID-19 cases detected within the workplace for a 14-day period.

Major COVID-19 Outbreaks

Further obligations are imposed on employers when there is a “major outbreak,” which is 20 or more COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 30-day period. These additional obligations last until there are no new COVID-19 cases detected in the workplace for a 14-day period and include the following: twice weekly no-cost COVID-19 testing for all employees exposed during the 30-day period and who remain in the workplace, excluding COVID-19 cases from the workplace, an investigation into the outbreak, COVID-19 hazard correction, and notifications to the local health department.

COVID-19 Prevention in Employer-Provided Housing

The standards for employer-provided housing include specific provisions concerning the prevention of COVID-19 in employer-provided housing, except when the housing is provided for the purpose of an emergency response or the employer is a government agency. Those regulations require employers to prioritize shared housing unit assignments based on common household, ensure physical distancing, provide face coverings, ensure effective cleanliness and sanitization, encourage residents to report COVID-19 symptoms, establish policies and procedures for testing occupants exposed to COVID-19, and isolate COVID-19 exposed residents from all other occupants.

Prevention in Employer-Provided Transportation to and from Work

In addition to employer-provided housing, the standards also include provisions concerning the prevention of COVID-19 in employer-provided transportation to and from work. These employers must do the following: ensure that transportation assignments are properly prioritized based on shared households; ensure physical distancing and use of face coverings; develop procedures for screening drivers and riders with COVID-19 symptoms; ensure all high-contact surfaces are regularly cleaned and disinfected; ensure that vehicle windows are kept open and proper ventilation systems are being used; and provide hand sanitizer in each vehicle.

The official order, which includes a more comprehensive breakdown of these requirements, can be found here. Please visit our COVID-19 Response Resource Center for more alerts on the many areas of law impacted by the pandemic.


Drake A. Mirsch, Associate


Peter T. Shapiro, Partner

Jade McKenzie, Associate

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