LEGAL UPDATE: Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program

LEGAL UPDATE: Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program
On April 21, 2022, the Cal/OSHA board met and approved the third, and potentially final, readoption of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”). This third readoption of the ETS became effective on May 5, 2022, and in many ways relaxes some of the prior COVID-19 workplace requirements for employers in California. We’ve summarized these changes below.

Testing:  When testing is mandatory under the ETS, employees may use self-tests (including at-home antigen tests) if another means of independent verification of the results can be provided (e.g., a time-stamped photograph of the results.)

Isolation/Quarantine:  The ETS aligns itself with the latest CDPH guidance on isolation and quarantine of employees from the workplace.

  • Positive Cases – Only employees who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from work. Upon testing positive, the employee must stay at home for at least five (5) days from the onset of symptoms or five (5) days from the date of the first positive test if the employee does not develop symptoms.
    • The employee must then take a COVID-19 test on the fifth day or later. If the test result is negative and at least 24 hours have passed without a fever and other symptoms are resolving, then the employee is able to return to work.
    • If the employee is unable to test or if the employer does not require a test, the employee must isolate for 10 full days.
    • Employers must provide exclusion pay for the entire time the employee is isolated due to work-related exposure.
    • Employers may require the employee to take a COVID-19 test on the fifth day or later. When these employees return to work in less than 10 days, they must wear a face mask in the workplace until 10 days have passed since the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if asymptomatic, from the date of their first positive COVID-19 test.
  • Close Contacts – the new ETS eliminates exclusion for close contacts and instead requires employers to review current CDPH guidance for persons who had close contacts, including any guidance regarding quarantine or other measures to reduce transmission.
    • Current CDPH guidelines lack exclusion requirements for asymptomatic close contacts; however, the CDPH guidelines do encourage close contacts to test three (3) to five (5) days after exposure and to wear a face covering for 10 days after exposure.
    • Employers no longer need to provide exclusion pay to close contacts.
    • Testing remains required for close contacts during outbreaks. If unable to test during outbreaks, the close contacts must follow the return-to-work requirements as if they were positive cases.
  • Symptomatic employees – the third ETS has no specific language on how to treat employees with COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Current CDPH guidance encourages those with COVID-19 symptoms regardless of vaccination status or previous infection to self-isolate and test as soon as possible to determine infection status, and to remain in isolation while waiting for test results.

Cleaning:  The third ETS eliminates the previous requirement to implement cleaning and disinfecting procedures, which included regular sanitization of commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs and bathroom surfaces.

Masking and Physical Distancing:  Masking for employees is no longer required indoors, regardless of vaccination status, unless specifically required by the CDPH. All requirements regarding maintaining six feet of distance from those unable to wear a face covering have been removed.

Definition Changes
  • The formerly known, “high-risk period” is now identified as the “infectious period” which means:
    • For COVID-19 cases who develop COVID-19 symptoms, from two days before they first develop symptoms until all of the following are true: it has been 10 days since symptoms first appeared; 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications; and symptoms have improved.
    • For COVID-19 cases who never develop COVID-19 symptoms, from two days before until 10 days after the specimen for their first positive test for COVID-19 was collected.
  • “Close contact” means being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the infectious period. This definition applies regardless of the use of face coverings, unless close contact is defined by regulation or order of the CDPH.
  • The new ETS adds a definition of “returned case,” which means an individual with a previous COVID-19 case who returned to work and did not develop any COVID-19 symptoms after returning. A person is only considered a returned case for 90 days after the initial onset of COVID-19 symptoms or, if the person never developed COVID-19 symptoms, for 90 days after the first positive test. As in the previous ETS version, employers do not need to provide free testing to close contacts (including during minor outbreaks) who are returned cases.
  • The new definition of “face covering,” unlike in the previous ETS version, now allows for fabric masks that allow light to pass through when held up to a light source.
  • The third ETS also deleted the definition of “fully vaccinated” and no longer distinguishes employer requirements based on employee vaccination status.

A COVID-19 Prevention Program is still required to be in writing and distributed to employees.  If you would like help updating your CPP or if you have any questions, please reach out to Xochi at

  If you have questions, contact Ashley Emerzian at: