Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard Updates

As we start a new year, there have been some important new regulation changes and an update to Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards for COVID-19 that took effect on Jan. 14, 2022, for California businesses. The ETS standards are set to be updated or expire on April 14, 2022.


Cal/OSHA requires all California employers to establish, maintain, and implement a COVID-19 Prevention Plan that includes identifying and evaluating employee exposure, implementing policies to correct unsafe or unhealthy hazards, and allowing plenty of time for handwashing and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces and objects. Employers must also provide training to employees on how COVID-19 is spread, prevention techniques, and information on benefits they may be entitled to under applicable law.

COVID-19 testing at must be provided at no cost, during paid time, to all employees of the employer who had close contact in the workplace. There was also an update to California mask mandates at work. The regulation now calls for tightly woven fabric, or non-woven material consisting of at least two layers. The fabrics must pass a light test, with only fabrics that “do not let light pass through when held up to a light source” being allowed.

Employees who are exempted from wearing a face covering due to medical, mental health, or disability related issues, must socially distance at least six feet from other employees and either be fully vaccinated or tested at least weekly. This testing must be during paid time and at no cost to the employee.

    Other Recent Laws in effect

    Other major safety laws enacted on Jan. 1, 2022, in California include AB 701, which applies specifically to warehouses and distribution centers after many complaints about employee fulfillment quotas and the algorithms used to create them.

    “Employees are not required to meet quotas than prevent compliance with meal or rest periods, using the bathroom, or occupational safety and health laws. Actions taken to comply with safety and health regulations are to be considered time on task and productive time under a quota or monitoring system.”

    The new law applies to employers with 100 or more employees at a single warehouse, or 1,000 or more employees at more than one warehouse or distribution center in the state of California. The new measure also prohibits retaliation against employees who complain about the quotas.

    Also already in effect is SB 606, which gives the Dept. of Safety and Health (DOSH) powers equivalent to Cal/OSHA allowing them to cite employers for willful violations on an employee-by-employee basis.

    Another provision of the measure is the creation of rebuttable presumption that employers with multiple worksites can be cited for multiple “enterprise” violations if Cal/OSHA determines the employer has a non-compliant written policy, or an employer has a pattern of repeated violations at more than one worksite.

    To do so, DOSH must prove the employer made no efforts to eliminate a hazard, the violation results in a fatality or catastrophe, an employer consistently has a high number of injuries, or if the employer has committed many violations and ignored their safety and health programs.