COVID-19 SAFE WORKPLACE TRAINING
October 19, 2022
California Amends Employer Obligation to Notify of Potential COVID-19 Exposure
Effective January 1, 2023, California Assembly Bill 2693 allows employers to post a notice in the workplace of potential COVID-19 exposure as an alternative to providing written notice individually to each potentially exposed employee, as was required under prior law. When posting a notice, employers must “prominently display” the notice “in all places” where similar workplace rules are posted and on any employee portal.
California Updates COVID-19 “Close Contact” Definition
Employers may be able to revise their COVID-19 protocols now that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has updated the definition of “close contact” for isolation and quarantine purposes. Over the summer the CDPH changed the “close contact” definition to mean anyone “sharing the same indoor airspace” with a person who is infected with COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The most recent update, which took effect on October 14, 2022, now applies an updated “close contact” definition for some California employers depending on the size of their workplace.
“Close contact” is now defined as follows:
For indoor spaces of 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor — such as a home, clinic waiting room, or airplane — a close contact is defined as sharing the same indoor airspace for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three separate 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes) while a person s infected (confirmed by a COVID-19 test or clinical diagnosis).
For large indoor spaces greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor (such as open-floor-plan offices, warehouses, large retail stores, manufacturing plants, or food processing facilities), a close contact is defined as being within six feet of the infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the infected person’s infectious period.
The update may change the process for identifying close contacts in your workplace, which impacts testing, masking, and outbreak procedures under Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). For employers with a workspace of 400,000 cubic feet or less, everyone in that space is considered a close contact if a person with COVID-19 spends 15 minutes there. Alternatively, for employers with workplaces larger than 400,000 cubic feet, the old six feet/15-minute standard can be used to identify close contacts.
Beginning November 1, 2022, New York City will eliminate the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for private sector employees. Mayor Eric Adams announced on September 20, 2022, that private employers in New York City will be able to make their own decisions on whether to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to report to work effective November 1. Until that date, the mandate remains in effect and, subject to accommodations (generally and practically medical and religious accommodations), a New York City private sector employer cannot permit an unvaccinated employee to work in a New York City facility. Although the City will eliminate the vaccine mandate for the private sector, the City Department of Health and Hygiene Commissioner encourages employers to maintain vaccine policies once the vaccine mandate is lifted. While vaccinations against COVID-19 for the private sector will no longer be required by New York City, the public sector will continue to be subject to the vaccine mandate.
On March 14, 2022, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“Oregon OSHA”) announced dramatic changes to its COVID-19 workplace safety requirements. While a new formal rule remains forthcoming, Oregon OSHA will now forego enforcement of large swaths of its current rule. Two primary requirements remain for general workplaces: employers must provide facial coverings and allow employees to wear them, and employers must pay for employees’ time and costs when requiring COVID-19 testing.
Washington’s COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Expires October 31, 2022
Washington State’s COVID-19 emergency declaration is set to expire on October 31, 2022. However, the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) administered by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries will remain in place for now. Under HELSA, all employers are required to notify employees in writing of a potential workplace exposure. However, healthcare facility employers and non-healthcare employers have different requirements, including triggers for notification. Non-healthcare employers must notify staff and others who were at the workplace at the same time as the infected individual of a potential exposure to COVID-19 within one business day. Healthcare facilities must notify staff and others at the workplace about high-risk exposures within 24 hours.