The Saqui Law Group has learned that the Cal/OSHA Enforcement Branch plans to enforce COVID-19 face covering guidance under the safety regulations for exposure to hazardous “Dust, Fumes, Mists, Vapors, and Gases.”
Until now, Cal/OSHA has issued citations for inadequate use of face coverings as a failure to effectively implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (e.g., by failing to ensure that employees use face coverings and maintain social distancing). Cal/OSHA cites this as a violation of Section 3203(a) of its General Industry Safety Orders.
Going forward, Cal/OSHA plans to also cite this as a violation of Section 5141, which requires the use of Engineering Controls, Administrative Controls, and Respiratory Protective Equipment to control harmful exposure to dusts, fumes, mists, vapors and gases. Cal/OSHA will issue citations for failure to prevent harmful exposure of employees to infectious or potentially infectious airborne droplets to prevent the spread of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by the use of face coverings or “other equally effective engineering controls.” This will give Cal/OSHA the opportunity to issue multiple citations for a single alleged failure to ensure use of face coverings and social distancing.
Cal/OSHA’s specific guidance on the use of face coverings is available on the agency’s website here.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
Citations issued by Cal/OSHA for failure to ensure use of face coverings and physical distancing will likely be classified as “serious” violations. It is critical that employers ensure they not only have written COVID-19 policies and procedures, postings, and frequent trainings, but that they also take affirmative steps to ensure those policies are observed by employees, including disciplinary action where appropriate. If you have questions about your company’s COVID-19 response policies and practices, including the use of face coverings, contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group.