As a California employer, it is essential to understand the role of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, commonly known as Cal/OSHA, and its impact on your business. Cal/OSHA is responsible for enforcing regulations to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees across the state. In a constantly evolving regulatory landscape, staying up-to-date with the latest Cal/OSHA regulations is crucial to maintaining a compliant and safe work environment.
In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the key 2023 Cal/OSHA regulations, covering new COVID-19 workplace guidelines and changes in reporting and record-keeping requirements as well as updates to heat illness prevention standards, workplace violence prevention, and wildfire smoke protection. As an experienced business and employment defense law firm, Hackler Flynn & Associates strives to help California businesses navigate these complex regulations and implement appropriate safety measures in the workplace.
New COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidelines
With COVID-19 still around, Cal/OSHA has updated its guidelines once again to help employers maintain a safe workplace. Here are the key changes that you need to know:
- Updated guidance on maintaining a safe workplace amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic: Cal/OSHA has adopted the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) definition of the infectious period for COVID-19 cases. This means employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 can return to work after five days without a negative test, provided they feel well, their symptoms are improving, and they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.
- Vaccination policies and accommodation requirements: Employers should review their vaccination policies and ensure they are up to date with the latest guidance from both Cal/OSHA and CDPH. This includes understanding the legal implications of vaccine mandates and providing reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot be vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons.
- Social distancing and face-covering recommendations: While social distancing measures have been relaxed in many settings, employers need to continue monitoring the latest guidelines from Cal/OSHA and CDPH. According to the revised guidance from Cal/OSHA, COVID-19 cases that return to work must wear a face covering for ten days after symptoms first appear or their first positive test.
Employers should stay informed of the ongoing changes to COVID-19 safety guidelines and adapt their workplace policies accordingly. By doing so, businesses can ensure the health and safety of their employees and maintain compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations. For a closer look at all of the updates to the COVID-19 safety guidelines by the Cal/OSHA, visit their page.
Changes in Reporting and Record-keeping Requirements
Cal/OSHA has implemented changes to reporting and record-keeping requirements to enhance the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. These changes include revisions to the electronic submission of recordkeeping forms for establishments in high-hazard industries and a redefinition of serious injuries and illnesses due to Assembly Bills 1804 and 1805, which took effect on January 1, 2020.
Under a new proposed rule, establishments with 20 or more employees in specific high-hazard industries must continue electronically submitting Form 300A Annual Summary information once a year to OSHA. Additionally, establishments with 100 or more employees in the highest-hazard industries are required to submit Form 300 Log and Form 301 Incident Report information once a year to OSHA while continuing to submit information from their Form 300A Annual Summary electronically. On the other hand, establishments with 250 or more employees, not in designated high-hazard industries, would no longer be required to submit recordkeeping information to OSHA electronically.
Moreover, employers are now required to report serious injuries, illnesses, and fatalities to Cal/OSHA by telephone or through a specified online mechanism that Cal/OSHA will establish for reporting. Until Cal/OSHA creates the online reporting mechanism, employers may continue to make reports by telephone or email. Employers are always encouraged to immediately report serious injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by telephone to the nearest enforcement district office.
Employers are also required to maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses for at least five years, including a summary of the previous year’s incidents. Proper documentation and maintenance of records ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations and promote workplace safety.
Heat Illness Prevention Standards
Cal/OSHA has introduced updates to the heat illness prevention program requirements to protect workers in outdoor and indoor workplaces further. These updates are relevant to industries with workers exposed to high temperatures, ensuring they are provided with proper hydration, shade, and monitoring of weather conditions.
A recent Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (OSHAB) decision clarified the provision of water at outdoor worksites, emphasizing that potable drinking water must be “as close as practicable” to workers to encourage frequent consumption. This decision ensures that employers take adequate measures to keep workers hydrated, which is crucial for preventing heat illness.
In the case of Rios Farming Co., some workers had to climb through multiple grape trellises to access drinking water, leading to a citation for not having water as close as practicable for their employees. The OSHAB decision affirmed that “as close as practicable” means water must be as close as reasonably achievable to promote frequent water consumption. Reasonable options for employers include providing a jug of water in each row where employees work or offering individual water bottles that workers can carry and refill from the jugs.
In addition, Cal/OSHA has initiated the formal rulemaking process for heat illness prevention in indoor places of employment. A public hearing is scheduled for May 2023 to discuss the proposed regulation, which aims to enhance worker safety in indoor workplaces exposed to high temperatures. The proposed regulation addresses various aspects of indoor heat illness prevention, including temperature thresholds, implementation of engineering and administrative controls, employee training, and access to cool-down areas, among others.
Workplace Violence Prevention
Workplace violence continues to be a growing concern, and new regulations in California aim to address this issue by requiring employers to develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs. These programs are designed to ensure employee safety and minimize the risk of violent incidents in the workplace.
California has enacted legislation that requires Cal/OSHA to adopt general industry workplace violence prevention regulations. These regulations will cover a wide range of industries and mandate the implementation of measures to prevent and address workplace violence. Employers are required to develop and implement workplace violence prevention programs tailored to their industry’s specific needs and risks. These programs must include procedures for identifying and assessing potential hazards, implementing preventive measures, and addressing incidents of workplace violence when they occur.
In addition to developing a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program, employers should establish a system for employees to report incidents of workplace violence and provide a clear and accessible process for investigating and resolving such reports. Employers are also required to provide regular training for employees on the risks and prevention of workplace violence. This training should cover the specific hazards associated with their industry and general information on workplace violence prevention and response strategies.
Employers must maintain records of all incidents of workplace violence and report serious incidents to Cal/OSHA in accordance with the established guidelines. By implementing these new regulations and ensuring that employees are equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to prevent and address workplace violence, California employers can work towards creating safer and more secure work environments for all.
Wildfire Smoke Protection
With the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires, it is essential for employers to protect their workers from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke exposure. California has introduced regulations outlining employers’ responsibilities to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees during wildfire events.
Employers must monitor air quality and inform workers about the potential risks of wildfire smoke. When the Air Quality Index (AQI) for particulate matter reaches or exceeds 151, employers must take action to minimize employees’ exposure to smoke. This includes modifying work schedules or relocating workers to areas with better air quality if feasible. Employers should also provide clear and timely communication about air quality levels and any necessary precautions workers should take to minimize exposure.
In addition to monitoring air quality and communication, employers are responsible for providing proper respiratory protection equipment, such as N95 masks, to their workers. This equipment should be readily available for use when the AQI reaches or exceeds 151. Employers must train their employees on the proper use and maintenance of respiratory protection equipment to ensure its effectiveness in protecting against wildfire smoke exposure.
In conclusion, compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations is essential for California employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. Staying up-to-date with the latest regulations and adapting workplace policies is crucial for maintaining a compliant and safe work environment. As a leading business and employment defense law firm, Hackler Flynn & Associates is dedicated to assisting California businesses in navigating these complex regulations and implementing appropriate safety measures in the workplace.
If you’re a California employer seeking assistance with Cal/OSHA regulations and workplace safety, don’t hesitate to reach out to Hackler Flynn & Associates. Our experienced team of legal professionals is here to help you navigate the complexities of compliance and implement effective safety measures to protect your employees and your business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your organization in staying up-to-date and compliant with the latest Cal/OSHA regulations.
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