COVID-19 Employer Guidance
- Are there Cal/OSHA regulations for protecting workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19?
- All California employers must have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP: title 8 section 3203) to protect employees from workplace hazards. This includes airborne infectious diseases such as the coronavirus.
For more information, please see Cal/OSHA’s recommendations.
- What information should I give my workers about COVID-19?
- Cal/OSHA requires employers to provide training in a way that is readily understandable by all employees. Employees should be trained on the following topics:
- - What COVID-19 is, how it is spread, symptoms, prevention, and when to seek medical attention.
- - The importance of frequent handwashing with soap and water.
- - To avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- - Coughing and sneezing etiquette, including covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue or a sleeve instead of a hand.
- - How to safely use cleaners and disinfectants on surfaces and objects.
- - Limiting close contact with others as much as possible and maintaining safe physical distancing.
- - The importance of not coming to work if they have a frequent cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, or if they live with or have had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- - The employer’s plan and procedures to protect employees from COVID-19 illness.
- What can I do at my worksite to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission?
- Consider incorporating these best practices into your daily health and safety routines.
- - Clean all equipment and tools (specifically those areas that will be touched by workers, including handles, seats, etc.) at the beginning and end of each work shift.
- - Be extra vigilant about cleaning restrooms, inside and out.
- - Ensure workers wash their hands when they arrive at the worksite and frequently throughout the day. Provide soap, water, and time for this purpose.
- - Adjust operations as much as possible to help workers to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from each other (e.g. stagger break times, adjust number of workers on the line, or in rows).
- - Create a plan for monitoring workers for symptoms upon arrival and throughout the workday. Be sure to keep the contact information for local medical services on hand and easily accessible should someone fall ill.
- Should I screen my workers before they start work/arrive at the worksite?
- Screening workers before they enter the worksite is a strategy that could help you to identify individuals who may be infected and reduce the spread among workers. For a detailed list of screening options based on CDC recommendations, click here.
NOTE: Employers should evaluate the burdens and benefits of recording workers’ temperatures or asking them to complete written questionnaires. Review OSHA’s medical record standard in your decision making process.
- What types of face coverings should my employees wear at work?
- Workers should always be provided the appropriate PPE required by the specific job task (e.g. applying pesticides). Employers should establish and communicate a company policy for face covering use at their worksite.
The CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus by preventing people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or N95 respirators, which are being reserved for medical workers.
The best protection against the virus is physical distancing and hand washing. (Source)
- How does "social” or “physical” distancing apply to the agricultural workplace?
- Physical distancing of at least 6 feet or 2 meters is recommended as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19 since it is spread person-to-person. Consider how you can implement social distancing practices in your workplace and engage workers in the process.
The CDC Guidance for Agriculture recommends the following options:
- - Reduce crew sizes, stagger work shifts, mealtimes, and break times, and have farmworkers alternate rows in fields.
- - Materials (such as harvesting buckets) and produce should not be transferred directly from one worker to the next but instead placed at a central transfer point. Cleaning and disinfecting protocols should be followed.
- - Consider cohorting (grouping together) workers who share housing or transportation. This can - increase the effectiveness of altering normal shift schedules by making sure that groups of workers are always assigned to the same shifts with the same coworkers.
- - Install shields or barriers, such as plastic or Plexiglass between farmworkers, when a 6-foot distance between farmworkers is not possible.
- - Remove or rearrange chairs and tables or add visual cue marks in employee break areas to support physical/social distancing practices between farmworkers.
- - When providing mandatory training, such as pesticide safety training, provide it outside, in smaller than usual groups, with participants 6 feet apart.
- What alternatives to N95s should I provide my workers?
- Workers should always be provided the appropriate PPE required by the specific job task (e.g. applying pesticides).
Because N95 respirators are being prioritized for medical personnel first, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has provided the following alternatives for N95 respirators (English/Spanish).
- What should I do if an employee becomes sick or exhibits symptoms while at work?
- According to CDC and Cal/OSHA recommendations, the employee must be sent home immediately, surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected, and employers should compile information on persons who had contact with the employee during the time the employee had symptoms and 2 days prior to symptoms.
Cal/OSHA further recommends that employers establish procedures to notify local health officials upon learning that someone has a COVID-19 infection. These officials will help employers determine a course of action.
For a list of recommendations for what to do when someone is sick, click here.
- What should I do if an employee has been exposed to COVID-19?
- To ensure continuity of operations of essential functions, CDC advises that critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. (Source)
Critical Infrastructure workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:
- - Employers should take the worker’s temperature prior to entering the worksite and the worker should self-monitor for symptoms throughout the day.
- - Workers should wear a face mask or cloth face covering at all times while at the worksite and maintain 6 feet of physical distance from other workers.
- - Work areas should be cleaned and disinfected often throughout the day, per CDC Disinfection and Sanitation recommendations.
- Should I provide sick leave or make changes to my sick leave policies?
- The CDC advises employers who do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
Employers who do offer sick leave should consider modifying policies to make sure that ill workers are able to stay home from work and are not penalized for taking sick leave. Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that workers are aware of and understand these policies.
- My employees report being stopped by police on the way to work. What can I do?
- Consider providing a letter or ID card to your employees stating your company policy regarding COVID-19 and their role as essential workers. It is not known by WCAHS whether this will be sufficient documentation for officials. These are examples from Farm Employment Labor Services and the California Strawberry Commission.
- Do I have to record or report COVID-19 illnesses in the workplace?
- Yes, according to Cal/OSHA, California employers are required to record work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, including COVID-19, in their Log 300 if it was caused from work-related exposure or occurred at work and resulted in one of the following:
- - Death
- - Days away from work (for recording purposes, this excludes days in quarantine)
- - Restricted work or transfer to another job
- - Medical treatment beyond first aid
- - Loss of consciousness
- - A significant injury or illness
Due to the limited availability of tests, a case is recordable even if a positive test result is not available if it meets any one of the listed criteria, such as resulting in days away from work. Cal/OSHA recommends erring on the side of recordability.
Note: An injury or illness is presumed to be work-related if it results from events or exposures occurring in the work environment unless an exception in section 14300.5(b)(2) specifically applies.
Employers with more than 10 workers must also immediately (within 8 hours) report to Cal/OSHA any serious illness (including COVID-19), serious injury, or death of an employee that occurred at work or in connection with work. For reporting purposes, if the employee became sick at work, it does not matter if the illness is work-related.
For more information about recording and reporting, see Cal/OSHA's FAQs for Recording and Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 Cases.