June 18, 2021
On June 17, 2021, following a dizzying series of events, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) voted to adopt new emergency temporary standards (ETS) for COVID-19, revising employer obligations designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Shortly thereafter, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order rendering the new standards effective immediately. In addition to bringing face coverings and social distancing requirements into alignment with federal guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a recent order by the California Department of Public Health, the new standards update employer mandates on COVID-19 prevention programs, including investigating and responding to COVID-19 in the workplace. The agency also modified required engineering and administrative controls, with the new standards requiring employers to provide new personal prevention equipment in the form of “respirators” such as N95 masks. Employers with employees in California who do not comply with these new standards face potential citations by Cal/OSHA and stiff penalties.