Quick Overview of May 6 Version of Emergency COVID Standards

What is happening with Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standard for COVID-19?

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has adopted the third iteration of the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for the COVID-19 pandemic. These requirements went into effect on May 6, 2022 and are effective through December 31, 2022.

The revisions were initiated to acknowledge the updated guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and to make the ETS more flexible if changes are made to CDPH guidance in the future.

Revised Definitions

Four definitions were revised. “Close contact” and “infectious period” were revised so that their meaning will change if CDPH changes its definition of the term in a regulation or order.

The COVID-19 test was simplified to make it easier to use self-administered and self-read tests. Also, it is no longer necessary to video or observe the whole test; a date/time-stamped photo of the test result will be sufficient.

The definition of fully vaccinated has been deleted as the term is no longer used in the regulations. All protections now apply regardless of vaccination status and the ETS do not vary based on an employee’s vaccination status.

Face Coverings

As revised, the requirements for face coverings are:

• The same for all employees regardless of vaccination status;

• No longer mandatory for unvaccinated workers in all indoor locations;

• Mandatory in the ETS when CDPH requires their use in specified indoor settings, such as emergency shelters, health care settings, cooling and heating centers, regardless of vaccination status.

Respirators must be provided to all employees who voluntarily request them when working inside or in a vehicle with other persons. There are no limitations based on vaccination status. This caveat also applies to COVID-19 testing, to be made available to all employees with symptoms regardless of vaccination status.

Other Changes

The detailed prescriptive requirements for excluding employees from the workplace after close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 have been deleted.

Instead, employers must review the CDPH guidelines for employees and implement quarantine and other measures in the workplace to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.

Not all the revisions have been explained. For example, specific requirements relating to barriers and cleaning and disinfecting have been deleted and are no longer required.

Compare Versions

Also, there still are requirements from the previous version of the ETS that remain in place, so it is highly recommended that employers compare the previous and May 6 version of the ETS.

To make the comparison, see the footnotes to the frequently asked questions (FAQ) at www.dir.ca.gov.

Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

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Mel Davis joined the CalChamber in 2000 as a workplace safety expert specializing in Cal/OSHA and safety-related matters. He worked for Cal/OSHA for more than 23 years as a principal safety engineer and construction safety engineer. His responsibilities included managing the technical staff responsible for developing and revising California safety and health regulations, evaluating requests for variances from regulations, and conducting complaint and accident investigations at all types of construction sites.