September 8, 2020

Cal/OSHA Safety Update - August 2020

The following information was collected from the recent Cal/OSHA Advisory committee and other knowledgeable sources.

COVID-19

  • The virus has presented Cal/OSHA with many challenges - from February to July they have investigated 122 fatalities; responded to approximately 500 serious illnesses; and, responded to approximately 5,000 complaints.
  • 71 proposed "serious" citations are under consideration for issuance.
  • Through the month of July, 14,098 employers have been contacted through the Cal/OSHA Consultation Service, other compliance assistance efforts, and through enforcement.
  • The primary standard being enforced in COVID-19 situations is Title 8, Section 3203 (the construction equivalent is Section 1509) - the Injury and Illness Prevention Program.  Accordingly, employers are strongly encouraged to evaluate their IIPP programs to ensure they meet the requirements of the standard.  For additional information on IIPPs, click here.
  • Employers are encouraged to review Cal/OSHA's "COVID-19 Infection Prevention in Construction" document here.
     

PETITION No. 538 BEFORE THE CAL/OSHA STANDARDS BOARD SEEKING A COVID-19 STANDARD

A petition was filed by worker safety advocacy group Worksafe, and the National Lawyers Guild seeking an emergency temporary standard and a permanent standard addressing the occupational hazards of COVID-19.  Cal/OSHA is working with the Standards Board in evaluating this petition.


ASSEMBLY BILL No. 685 REGARDING A COVID-19 STANDARD

This bill, introduced by Assembly member Reyes, would requires certain notifications by the employer when they have been notified that an employee has contracted COVID-19.

Among other requirements, the bill calls for:

  • Written notification to all employees and subcontractors
  • Written notification to exclusive representatives
  • Provide employees with information on COVID-19 benefits
  • Notify employees and exclusive representatives of the employer's site disinfection plan
  • If the number of cases at the employer's worksite meets the definition of "outbreak" as determined by the local public health department, that department shall be notified
  • The California Department of Public Health shall post on its public website information about cases as reported by the local agencies
  • The employer shall maintain records of these cases
  • Penalties may be imposed if violations of Cal/OSHA regulations are documented
     

FDA ISSUES HAND SANITIZER "DO NOT USE" NOTIFICATION

  • Employers providing hand sanitizer to employees should be warned that unscrupulous operators are selling potentially dangerous hand sanitizers
  • The FDA placed over 100 products on its "Do Not Use" list because of the inclusion of methanol, a contaminant, instead of ethyl alcohol in its products.

Click here for more details.
 

OUTDOOR WORKER EXPOSURE TO WILDFIRE SMOKE

The emergency regulation has been extended by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board until January 20, 2021.

A challenging issue regarding this emergency regulation is its requirement for N-95 respiratory protection for exposed employees.   due to the scarcity of N-95s and the need to direct N-95s to the healthcare industry, Cal/OSHA is currently evaluating whether KN -95s offer equivalent protection to the N -95s. Their results have not yet been published.


HEAT ILLNESS PREVENTION

Many parts of California are experiencing high temperatures.  Employers are strongly advised to ensure their Heat Illness Prevention Programs are up to date.  When Cal/OSHA inspectors are in the field conducting enforcement inspections, they routinely check the employer's program.

Cal/OSHA has prepared the "Heat Illness Prevention eTool" which contains helpful information about heat illness prevention including an "Employer Sample Program".  Click here for more information.
 

OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE TO LEAD IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Six advisory committee meetings have been held in the last few years to consider a proposal to update the lead standards for both general industry and construction in response to recommendations from the California Department of Public Health to lower the (airborne) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and blood lead levels at which employers must take specific action to protect employees.  The Cal/OSHA Standards Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal in September 2020.


VALLEY FEVER

California Labor Code Section 6709 requires construction employers in counties where Valley Fever is highly endemic to provide effective awareness training to all employees annually and before an employee begins work.  Click here for more information.

 

 

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by Brooke Fishel, Director of Labor Relations