COVID-19 Prevention in California Workplaces

Understanding Cal/OSHA’s New Rules

In response to calls from workers and advocates, Cal/OSHA adopted emergency rules designed to strengthen COVID-19 protections for all California workers. The rules apply to most workers in California not covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard (which primarily applies to health care facilities and services, and congregate living facilities).
The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard went into effect December 1, 2020, was readopted in June 2021, and expires Jan. 14, 2022. A second readoption is in process, but the temporary COVID-19 protections will expire April 2022. Plans are underway for a more permanent standard. For information on future revisions see information from Cal/OSHA and the Standards Board about pending actions and upcoming hearings.
Employers must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan showing the employers assessment of how coronavirus might spread at the workplace, and detail what protections the employer is putting in place to prevent spread:
  • A system for communicating information to employees about COVID-19 prevention procedures, testing, symptoms and illnesses, including a system for employees to report exposures without fear of retaliation.
  • Identification and evaluation of hazards – screening employees for symptoms, identifying workplace conditions and practices that could result in potential exposure.
  • Investigating and responding to cases in the workplace – responding immediately to potential exposures by following steps to determine who may have been exposed, providing notice within one business day about potential exposures, and offering testing to workers who may have been exposed.
  • Correcting COVID-19 hazards – including correcting unsafe conditions and work practices as well as providing effective training and instruction.
  • Physical distancing – implementing procedures to ensure workers stay at least six feet apart from other people if possible.
  • Providing face coverings and ensuring they are worn.
  • Adopting site-specific strategies to reduce exposure to the virus.
  • Recording requirements for positive COVID-19 cases.
  • Making the COVID-19 Prevention Plan accessible to employees and employee representatives.
  • Removal of COVID-19 exposed workers and COVID-19 positive workers from the workplace with measures to protect pay and benefits.
  • Criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19.
  • Requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks (three or more cases in a workplace in a 14-day period) and major outbreaks (20 or more cases within a 30-day period).
  • Specific requirements for infection prevention in employer-provided housing and transportation to and from work.
For More Information
Cal/OSHA has posted all of its citations related to COVID-19.


Also available are Frequently Asked Questions and a one-page fact sheet on the regulation, as well as a model COVID-19 Prevention Program. Cal/OSHA Consultation Service hosts training webinars for employers.

The latest standard is here, in five parts: The main section on COVID-19 Prevention. Two short sections related to action in the case of outbreaks. One section on COVID-19 Prevention in Employer-Provided Housing and another on Employer-Provided Transportation to and from Work.
Employers and workers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services at 800-963-9424. 
Complaints about workplace safety and health hazards can be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734).


News & Updates
As of October 2021, there have been more than 4.8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in California, and more than 70,700 deaths (source). From meat processing, to the garment industry, to grocery stores, to fast food, the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces is more than a devastating headline. Workers in low-income jobs, immigrants and workers of color have borne the brunt of these deaths (source).


Cal/OSHA's new COVID-19 standard comes after workers and advocates submitted a petition in May to urge the Standards Board to develop an emergency temporary standard tailored to COVID-19 hazards. Here is an FAQ about the ETS campaign.


An incredible coalition of 45+ occupational health and safety organizations, labor unions, worker centers, community groups, and environmental organizations made this happen – see many of them at the bottom of this page.

Supporters Include