All COVID-19 Prevention Plan Requirements

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COVID-19 Prevention Plans

Several states require employers to develop and implement COVID-19 prevention and response plans to protect employees and the public in their workplaces.

This article provides the state-specific orders, guidelines, and regulations that mandate COVID-19 plans. The article also summarizes OSHA’s revised COVID-19 workplace guidance.

OSHA Workplace Guidance

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (the Act) requires employers to “comply with safety and health standards and regulations issued and enforced either by OSHA or by an OSHA-approved state plan.”

Also, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide workers with a “workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”OSHA’s guidance on Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace advises employers to develop and implement a COVID-19 prevention program – also known as a plan. The program should, at a minimum, involve “conducting a hazard assessment; identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace; and implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns.” OSHA also recommends employers involve workers, unions, or other employee representatives in developing the program.

Even if not required at the federal level, employers should develop and implement a COVID-19 prevention program/plan. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s “General Duty Clause,” employers must provide workers with a safe and healthy workplace. Employers can meet this requirement by, in part, implementing a COVID-19 plan to protect both their workers and the public. Developing and implementing a COVID-19 plan also demonstrates an employer’s commitment to employee safety and minimizes the risk of government enforcement actions, workers’ compensation claims, and employment litigation.

States Requiring COVID-19 Prevention & Related Plans

California, Oregon, and Virginia require employers to develop and implement COVID-19 prevention plans.

California

COVID-19 Prevention Plan Requirements in California

California's COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards require employers to “establish, implement, and maintain an effective, written COVID-19 Prevention Program.”  

The ETS applies to “all employees and places of employment” except (1) places of employment with one employee who does not have contact with another person; (2) employees working from home; or (3) employees who are covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard (generally applicable to healthcare facilities).

The COVID-19 Prevention Program may be integrated into the employer’s Injury and Illness Program or developed and maintained as a separate document.

To eliminate or reduce the risk of workplace COVID-19 exposure, the ETS requires COVID-19 Prevention Programs to address a wide variety of workplace safety measures, such as developing an employee communication system, conducting worksite-specific risk assessments, implementing engineering and administrative controls, and providing personal protective equipment when needed. 

The ETS also requires employers to make their COVID-19 Prevention Program available at the workplace to employees, authorized employee representatives, and representatives of the Cal/OSHA immediately upon request.

Oregon

COVID-19 Prevention Plan Requirements in Oregon

Oregon OSHA’s Rule Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Risks requires nearly all Oregon employers to implement an Infection Control Plan.

Under the rules, employers must conduct an exposure risk assessment, which must involve feedback and participation from employees (e.g., during an interactive safety meeting or similar interactive process). Employers with more than 10 employees in the state must document the assessment in writing.

Additionally, employers must implement an Infection Control Plan based on risks identified in the risk assessment. Employers may develop the plan by facility type rather than site-by-site as long as any site-specific information that affects employee exposure risk to COVID-19 is included in the plan. Employers with 10 or more employees must have a written Infection Control Plan and ensure a copy is accessible to employees.

Virginia

COVID-19 Prevention Plan Requirements in Virginia

On September 8, 2021, Virginia adopted Revised Amendments to the VOSH Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention. COVID-19 prevention plans are required for healthcare and higher risk workplaces with mixed vaccination status employees (e.g., high-volume retail and grocery, manufacturing, and transit).

All employers must adopt policies that ensure compliance with the revised standard and includes an anonymous complaint procedure. Employers who adopt and enforce such a policy in good faith and resolve complaints are deemed compliant. All employers must also conduct a COVID-19 hazard assessment. 

More specifically, the revised standard expressly requires employers to:

  • notify employees on how to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if employees suspect possible exposure, and encourage self-monitoring;
  • develop and implement policies and procedures for employees to report when they are experiencing signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and no alternative diagnosis has been made;
  • establish a system to receive reports of positive COVID-19 tests by employees and others (consistent with HIPAA and related laws);
  • develop and implement policies and procedures for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 employees to return to work; and
  • establish and implement policies and procedures to ensure unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk employees observe physical distancing while on the job and during paid breaks on the employer's property.

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