On July 24, 2020, California released an Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening. The 32-page document summarizes existing industry-specific guidance and checklists, workplace outbreak guidance, enforcement, and worker education, with links to other resources, providing a "one-stop shop" for employers operating during the pandemic.

Along with guidance on Cal/OSHA recording and reporting, paid leave laws, and worker rights and education, here are the five key quotes from the Playbook:

  • 1. Local Health Departments Still Control. Local Health Officers may require stricter guidelines than those required by the state. Employers should review their county website or consult their county or local health department to ensure they have the most up-to-date information about what is allowed within their jurisdiction.
  • 2. Existing Law and Cal/OSHA. The Playbook is not intended to revoke or repeal any worker rights, either statutory, regulatory or collectively bargained, and is not exhaustive as it does not include county health orders, nor is it a substitute for any existing safety and health-related regulatory requirements such as those of Cal/OSHA.
  • 3. Industry-Specific Guidance. The California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA have issued statewide Industry-Specific Guidance and Checklists to help employers as they reopen their businesses that include:
    • a. Details and instructions such as how to communicate with the local health department regarding COVID-19 outbreaks among workers, training and communication for workers and worker representatives, and what to do if there is an outbreak.
    • b. Topics for worker training that should be incorporated into the worksite-specific plan [including] information on how to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms at home ... and the importance of physical distancing, use of face coverings, and handwashing, both at work and off work time.
    • c. Instructions and recommendations for individual control measures [including] instructions for how to screen workers as well as how workers can screen themselves for symptoms.
    • d. Directions for effective cleaning and disinfecting protocols as well as physical distancing guidelines. Both of which ... should be included in an employer's worksite-specific plan.
  • 4. Requirements to Reopen. Before reopening, all facilities must:
    • a. Perform a detailed risk assessment and create a worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan.
    • b. Train workers on how to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes how to screen themselves for symptoms and when to stay home.
    • c. Set up individual control measures and screenings.
    • d. Put disinfection protocols in place.
    • e. Establish physical distancing guidelines.
    • f. Establish universal face covering requirements (with allowed exceptions) in accordance with California Department of Public Health face covering guidelines.
  • 5. Responding to an Outbreak. "If an employer discovers a worker who has tested positive for COVID-19 or a worker who has symptoms, they should make sure the worker does not remain at work, and the employer should work with their local health department to follow guidance about isolation or quarantine, possible testing, and when it is appropriate for the worker to return to work."
    • a. Steps to respond to a positive case of COVID-19 or an outbreak should be included in the employer's worksite-specific plan.
    • b. Designate a workplace infection prevention coordinator (to the extent one has not already been designated) to implement COVID-19 infection prevention procedures and to manage COVID-related issues among workers
    • c. Ensure that sick leave policies are sufficiently generous and flexible to enable workers who are sick to stay home without penalty and ensure that workers are aware of such policies. As applicable, employers should also make their workers aware of the following leave entitlements.
    • d. Instruct workers to stay home and report to the employer if they are having symptoms of COVID-19, were diagnosed with COVID-19, or are awaiting test results for COVID-19.
    • e. Develop mechanisms for tracking suspected and confirmed cases among workers in coordination with your local health department.
    • f. Make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of workers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection when communicating with other workers. Employers should refer to the guidelines issued by DFEH and EEOC.
    • g. Close contacts of cases should be given instructions on home quarantine and symptom monitoring, information regarding the closest COVID-19 testing sites, and referral to their local health department. [Guidance on Isolation and Quarantine for COVID-19 Contract Tracing is here.]
      • i. A close contact is someone who spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of an individual with COVID-19 infection during their infectious period, which includes, at a minimum, the 48 hours before the individual developed symptoms.
      • ii. Close contacts should be instructed to quarantine at home for 14 days from their last known contact with the worker with COVID-19 and should be tested for COVID-19. [Guidance on testing from the California Department of Public Health is here.]
      • iii. Use employment records to verify shifts worked during the infectious period and other workers who may have worked closely with them during that time period.
    • h. For returning to work, consult with the local health department and most recent CDC guidance for when a confirmed case may be released from home isolation and return to work. The Playbook includes a table for reference. The local health department may recommend a strategy for return to work similar to the following, although some variation may occur by jurisdiction and outbreak.
  • The Playbook is a good reminder that employers must be proactive about COVID-19 safety policies, procedures, and protocols on a local and industry level in order to reopen.

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