Emergency regulations on COVID-19 infection prevention from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health took effect Nov. 30, and most California employers must now comply with the new, temporary COVID-19 workplace safety standards, including the requirement to develop and implement a written COVID-19 prevention program.
“As emergency standards, these regulations become effective immediately,” a Department of Industrial Relations Dec. 1 news release stated.
CDA is working closely with Cal/OSHA officials to determine whether dental offices that operate under the more stringent airborne transmissible disease standard are exempt from the new temporary regulations. Until Cal/OSHA makes that determination, and because the emergency regulations took effect immediately without a grace period for compliance, CDA recommends that practice owners adhere to the following new requirements:
In lieu of developing a new prevention program, employers may ensure the new required elements are added to their existing injury and illness prevention program. CDA has updated its COVID-19 addendum to the IIPP to include the new required elements.
CDA’s Clinical Care Workgroup developed COVID-19-positive tracking forms that practice owners can use for employees and patients.
Employers will need to ensure that individual identifying information about COVID-19 cases and exposure is kept confidential. The tracking information must be made available to employees or authorized employee representatives but with personal identifying information removed.
Should a COVID-19 employee death or serious illness requiring inpatient hospitalization occur, the employer must report the event immediately to Cal/OSHA.
Employers can satisfy this requirement by using sick leave benefits paid under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employer-provided vacation or paid-time-off benefits and other available payments from public sources. The FFCRA remains in effect until Dec. 31, unless extended, and eligible employees should be paid first under that act. (Wages paid under the FFCRA are reimbursable through payroll tax credits.) Employers cannot require the use of available California or local paid sick leave to maintain wages.
Employers must make up the difference in eligible benefits not covered by workers’ compensation.
Three or more cases in a workplace in a 14-day period constitutes an outbreak. Employers cannot require employees to submit a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to work; however, employers must take the following actions should a COVID-19 outbreak or multiple COVID-19 infections occur at the work site:
The DIR’s Dec. 1 news release stated that enforcement investigators will take into consideration employers’ “good faith efforts to implement the emergency standards,” but also emphasized that eliminating hazards and implementing testing requirements during outbreaks is essential.
CDA therefore recommends that dentists document any efforts to comply with the new emergency standards, which are set to expire Oct. 2, 2021, but may be renewed.
Employers may want to read the DIR’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standards FAQ covering scope of coverage, employee communications, employee training details and more.
CDA will share more updates with members as they become available, including confirmation about the regulations’ application to dental practices and the availability of new CDA resources to help dental practices comply with the emergency regulations.