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Coronavirus outbreak: Cal/OSHA issues interim guidance for health care employers

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Oakland, CA — In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health – or Cal/OSHA – has published interim guidance on requirements for health care employers to protect workers from exposure.

The deadly coronavirus is a respiratory illness reportedly linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

A Feb. 3 press release from Cal/OSHA states that the guidance is intended to protect workers in hospitals and clinical laboratories, where the risk of infection is higher. The guidance also covers safety requirements when providing care for suspected or confirmed patients of the disease or when handling pathogens in a lab.

The coronavirus is covered under the Cal/OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard, the release states. The standard requires covered employers to protect workers from infectious airborne diseases and pathogens by using effective:

  • Written ATD exposure control plans and procedures
  • Training
  • Engineering and work practice controls
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Medical services, such as vaccination and infection determination and treatment
  • Laboratory operation requirements

As of Feb. 11, 13 people in the United States had contracted the virus, according to CDC. California is one of six states that had at least one confirmed case.


“It is vital that employers take the necessary steps to protect workers in health care settings where they may be at risk of exposure,” Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker said in the release.

Cal/OSHA also has posted several publications as resources for workers and employers, including its exposure control and laboratory biosafety plans.

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