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California updates COVID-19 workplace rules

COVID-19 update
Photo: MCCAIG/iStockphoto

Sacramento, CA — Additional revisions to California’s emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 have been adopted by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, to include the California Department of Public Health’s latest recommendations for reducing the spread of the disease.

Approved Dec. 16 and set to go into effect Jan. 14, the revisions will apply to most workers not covered by the state’s standard on aerosol transmissible diseases. The emergency rules were last updated in June.

Among the latest revisions is an updated section on investigating and responding to COVID-19 cases in the workplace. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the standards now provide employers with more clear instructions on how to notify workers who were on a worksite with someone with COVID-19 “during a high-risk exposure period.” Employers must notify any workers who were potentially exposed within one business day.

As for testing and exclusion, employers are now required to make COVID-19 testing available – at no cost and during paid time – to employees who were fully vaccinated before being in “close contact” with someone with the disease, even if the workers are asymptomatic.

During an outbreak, employers must provide weekly testing to vaccinated workers who were potentially exposed and are asymptomatic. For major outbreaks, twice-weekly testing must be provided. A major outbreak is defined as 20 or more cases.


Workers who have recently recovered from COVID-19 and those who are fully vaccinated aren’t required to be excluded from a workplace after a close contact but must wear a face covering and maintain 6 feet of physical distancing for 14 days after the last date of contact.

The period of time before an employee can return to work after a close contact or COVID-19 infection has been revised to match the current CDPH guidelines and will automatically update if the guidance changes.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, has published online a fact sheet that outlines the revisions. Also, DIR has updated resources on its website to reflect the changes.

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