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Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations in effect: What dentists need to know

Regulations include some new requirements and maintain others with added flexibilities

January 05, 2023 3482

Quick Summary:

The new Cal/OSHA regulations will remain in effect for two years. Some requirements remain unchanged while other new provisions are intended to help employers “provide consistent protections to workers” and provide the flexibility to respond to future changes in guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health. Employers still must maintain a written COVID-19 prevention plan that is either part of or an addendum to their injury and illness prevention plan. CDA has an updated COVID Addendum to the IIPP for dentists’ use.

Update Feb. 6, 2023: The California Office of Administrative Law on Feb. 3 approved the COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulation, which was filed with the secretary of state and took effect immediately. Continue reading for details of the provisions. The Department of Industrial Relations also published an FAQ. 

Jan. 5: Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations will take effect early this year and replace the most recent version of the emergency temporary standards that California dentists have been complying with since May 2022. Some requirements remain unchanged while other new provisions are intended to help employers “provide consistent protections to workers” and provide the flexibility to respond to future changes in guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health.

The new regulations, once approved by the state’s Office of Administrative Law, will take effect immediately and remain in effect for two years, but employers must follow the record-keeping requirements for three years.

Employers still must maintain a written COVID-19 prevention plan that is either part of or an addendum to their injury and illness prevention plan. CDA has an updated COVID Addendum to the IIPP for dentists’ use. 

Outbreaks now reportable to Cal/OSHA, definition of ‘close contact’ less stringent

The non-emergency regulation’s notable new provisions for employers are:

  • The definitions for “close contact,” “returned case” and “exposed group” are revised and subject to change when CDPH changes its definitions. Broadly, close contact is now defined by consideration of the size of the workplace where the exposure took place. A Department of Industrial Relations’ fact sheet provides the complete updated definitions.  
  • Major outbreaks are now reportable to Cal/OSHA. A major outbreak is still defined as 20 or more employee cases in an exposed group within 14 days. Employers are no longer required to report outbreaks of three or more cases to their local health department.
  • Employers must provide face coverings and ensure they are worn by employees when required by a CDPH regulation or order. Currently, CDPH still requires everyone in health care settings to wear face masks. 
  • Requirements related to ventilation are simplified, requiring that the written COVID-19 prevention plan incorporate one of three options.

Employers should review the CDPH’s current isolation and quarantine guidance related to potential exposure, close contacts and the infectious period and understand that the definition of close contact is subject to change.

As CDA previously reported, the “infectious period” or isolation for symptomatic and asymptomatic cases was shortened in November to five days if the individual tests negative for COVID-19 on day 5 and if the previously symptomatic individual has not had a fever for over 24 hours without medication.

CDA has a resource on how to pay staff during a COVID-19-related absence.

Maintaining written prevention plan, tracking employee cases, other ongoing requirements 

Under the non-emergency regulations, employers must continue to:

  • Track employee COVID-19 cases. Dentists can continue to use CDA’s tracking resource to comply with the requirement.
  • Notify affected employees, by individual or posted notice, when a COVID-19 case was present at the worksite.
  • Make COVID-19 testing available at no cost during paid time to employees following a close contact at work, except for returned cases. The regulation redefined “returned case” to mean an individual who returns to work 30 days after the initial onset of symptoms or a positive test leading to a COVID-19 absence.  
  • Exclude COVID-19 cases from the workplace until the individuals are no longer an infection risk and implement policies to prevent transmission after close contact. 
  • Continue to maintain a written COVID-19 prevention plan or create one if they do not have one. This plan addresses COVID-19 as a workplace hazard and includes measures to prevent workplace transmission, employee training and methods for responding to COVID-19 cases at the workplace.

As with the emergency standards, the non-emergency regulation lets employers address COVID-19 workplace measures within their written injury and illness prevention program or as an addendum to the IIPP. 

CDA’s regulatory compliance expert updated the sample COVID-19 Addendum to the IIPP to be consistent with the Cal/OSHA non-emergency COVID-19 regulation. 

The requirement to provide employees with a written “notice of potential exposure” when a COVID-19 case was present at the worksite was extended last fall through legislation. Employers must provide that notice within one business day of being notified of the potential exposure. More details and a sample customizable notice are in the updated CDA resource.

Dentists can find more details and the new regulation on Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 prevention resources webpage.