The standards board for Cal/OSHA earlier in September approved a petition by labor groups for an emergency regulation to develop new COVID-19 requirements for employers. The board will consider in November the new standards, which will likely be similar to current guidance.

The regulation aims to require certain protective equipment and practices along with response measures during outbreaks. Board staff disagreed with the regulations, contending they would place unnecessary burdens on businesses, create confusion and not significantly improve outcomes, according to California Citrus Mutual.

The Saqui Law Group was concerned that the short timeframe for adopting the regulations allows for little input from stakeholders, hindering the effectiveness of the rules. “The regulation may contain omissions, errors or fail to address the realities of the broad range of workplaces in California,” the labor attorneys argued.

Assembly Bill 2043 also proposed to codify Cal/OSHA guidance on the virus into enforceable regulations. The Legislature passed the measure in August and it currently sits on the governor’s desk. Ag groups opposed AB 2043, arguing in part that the state has supported local leadership throughout the pandemic and statewide requirements would create more problems. 

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Brian Little, a policy advocate for the California Farm Bureau Federation told the board that AB 685, which the governor has signed, requires notifications of outbreaks at workplaces as the Cal/OSHA directive calls for.

"We need to be careful about redundancy in these requirements going forward," he said. 

Little added that Cal/OSHA has already been enforcing COVID-19 regulations as well, with 4,000 site visits in recent months and at least 70 more potential workplace citations announced.