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Keep On Top of Cal/OSHA Changes

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AB 685 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 17, 2020. This legislation was enacted to protect workers and the public from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.  Beginning January 1, 2021, AB 685 gives authority to Cal/OSHA to shut down an entire worksite due to COVID-19 exposure and to more quickly issue citations. Employers are also required to have a written COVID-19 Prevention Program in place. Nonprofit employers would be wise to keep on top of the Cal/OSHA changes related to AB 685 and incorporate them into the organization’s business continuity plan. 

AB 685 Employer Notification Requirements  – Effective Now

The employer notification requirement mandates employers to notify employees of: 

  • Potential exposure to COVID-19 
  • Provide notification of COVID-19 related benefits and protections 
  • Provide notification of the disinfection and safety standards that will be implemented by the employer upon potential exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite. 

Having a written COVID-19 Safety and Prevention Plan in place is the best practice. This could include but not be limited to disinfection and safety standards and can be part of your Injury and Illness Protection plan. The notification requirements apply to all employer worksites. All employees and employers of any subcontracted employees who were at the worksite where potential exposure occurred must be notified within one business day.  

AB 685 New COVID-19 Outbreak Reporting Requirement – Effective January 1, 2021 

If three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are contracted by employees within a two-week period, employers are required to notify local public health agencies within 48 hours. The contracted cases are counted by separate households. Therefore, if two employees who live together contract COVID-19 within a two week time period, and it is laboratory confirmed, this would count as 1 case. Local health departments will share information about workplace COVID-19 outbreaks with the California Department of Public Health, who will share this information on their website by industry. 

AB 685 New Cal/OSHA Authority – Effective January 1, 2021 

AB685 gives the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) three types of authority: 

  • Authority to issue an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) to protect workers from an imminent hazard related to COVID-19 exposure.   
  • Authority to Cite or fine employers for serious violations related to COVID-19 without notice. Previously, a 15-day notice was required. 
  • Authority to cite or fine employers who do not follow AB 685 required notifications to employees 

The purpose of the OPU is to remove workers from the risk of exposure until the hazard can be addressed. This could be a closure of the entire worksite. This authority is in force until January 1, 2023.  Your Business Continuity Plan should include this scenario. In addition, a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan will help to minimize potential citations or fines given under Cal/OSHA’s new authorities.  

All public and private employers are required to follow the new AB 685 regulations. The exceptions are health facilities and employers who provide direct care or testing to individuals for COVID-19 infection. 

Workers Compensation Reporting Requirements 

Please refer to our earlier blog entry with details on SB1159 and the COVID-19 reporting requirements. Work Comp Covid-19 Update  

Written Business Continuity Plan and COVID-19 Prevention Plan 

In addition to being prepared for the new reporting requirements, employers should have a written Business Continuity Plan and COVID-19 Prevention Plan in place. Should a worksite be shut down, a Business Continuity Plan will help leadership execute the closure and communications with staff in a more expedient and effective manner. The COVID-19 Prevention Plan can aid with addressing the steps to take in reopening the worksite after the risk of exposure has passed so that employees can return to the worksite. 

CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting 

Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting 

AB 685 Cal/OSHA Information for Employers


The New Workers Comp Landscape (CalNonprofits Webinar)

Employer Questions About AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law

COVID-19 Infection Prevention Requirements (AB 685)Enhanced Enforcement and Employer Reporting Requirements Updated 11/13/2020 

About the Author

  • Founded in 1984 as a subsidiary of the California Association of Nonprofits (CalNonprofits), CalNonprofits Insurance Services was established during a time of diminishing insurance options for nonprofits. One of the driving reasons for establishing the association was to use the collective influence of the sector to secure more stable and quality insurance. We have developed, and are known for, our wide spectrum of services reflecting expertise in both the insurance and nonprofit sectors, our superior customer service, and our development of exclusive insurance products, including a highly successful dental and vision trust. We insure more than 1,200 nonprofit organizations throughout California and we are the only California brokerage specializing in insurance for nonprofits. Our clients range from newly established nonprofits all the way to venerable organizations with multiple locations statewide.

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