COVID-19 Enforcement on the Rise
July 15, 2021
Cal/OSHA, the state agency that oversees workplace safety and health, has increasingly enforced and levied fines with respect to COVID-19 issues in the workplace. By April 2021, those fines amounted to roughly $4.6 million for approximately 200 workplaces. You don’t want to be caught unprepared should a Cal/OSHA representative make a surprise visit to your business. See if you pass the test – can you successfully check off these five tips below?
5 Quick Tips to Proactively Address COVID-19 Hazards in the Workplace:
1. Keep Your Prevention Plans up-to-date: Note the plural in plans. In addition to your Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP), nearly all employers are also required to implement a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan (CPP). In fact, it’s likely this will be one of the first items requested by a Cal/OSHA representative this year. After the June 17, 2021 requirements went into effect, Cal/OSHA updated its CPP template regarding the new face covering, physical distancing, and testing requirements discussed here. Access the updated CPP template, in English or Spanish, on our COVID-19 Resources page.
2. Be Prepared to Increase Safety Standards During Outbreaks: Employers are required to implement additional safety protocols should their workplace experience a COVID-19 outbreak. For example, requiring your employees in an exposed group (vaccinated or not) to wear face coverings during an outbreak. Employers are also required to implement physical distancing (i.e., at least six feet) during a major outbreak (defined as 20 or more COVID-19 cases in your workplace in a 30-day period).
3. Record COVID-19 Cases as Required: Often missed, make sure that you comply with COVID-19 recording. If you determine a confirmed COVID-19 case was work-related, make sure you record it on Form 300 every time a case involves:
- medical treatment beyond first aid
- restricted work activity or job transfer
- days away from work
- loss of consciousness
4. Post Required Employee Notices in Your Workplace: Make sure that you have posted all of the required state and federal notices in an area commonly accessed by employees. Note that Cal/OSHA updated its Safety and Health Protection on the Job notice in March 2021. Make sure you have posted the updated version! Regarding COVID-specific posters, if you have 26 or more employees, you must post the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave notice, and send it electronically to your remote workers. (A Spanish version can be found here.) Don’t forget to check local posting requirements in the cities and counties where your workers are located.
5. Create an Open Door Policy for Safety/Health Concerns: You would be surprised how often Cal/OSHA factors in an employer’s good-faith efforts. Demonstrate that you take safety and health matters seriously by creating an open-door policy that clearly communicates to your employees how they can raise safety and health concerns. Consider a suggestion box or an employee action hotline where employees can call and express concerns without retaliation. Be ready to show a Cal/OSHA inspector who is responsible for overseeing workplace safety issues, and how to file an internal complaint.
Resource: California Employers Association