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Saturday, January 22, 2022

California’s new workplace COVID rules go into effect Friday

by Andrew Sheeler | Sacramento Bee

California’s COVID-19 workplace rules are set to change Friday, with more stringent requirements for employee testing and the wearing of masks.

Cal-OSHA’s new rules come as the California Omicron variant struggles to respond to a new wave of COVID-19 cases.

One of the biggest changes is with employees who have to undergo a COVID-19 test after contact at work.

Self-administered, self-reading tests – in other words, tests done at home – will no longer be allowed under the new rules.

Instead, a test may go to a laboratory, perform the test in front of a staff supervisor, or perform the test in front of an employee health care representative.

The Department of Industrial Relations said in a statement that employers are free to offer self-reading, self-administered COVID-19 tests in addition to the test, which should be offered under the proposed regulation.

“For example, during the pandemic some employers have offered widespread, surveillance testing, even though it is not required by regulation,” a spokesman for the department said. Employees are already required to wear a face covering indoors. However, Cal-OSHA is tightening its definition of qualifying as a face covering.

The new definition includes “a surgical mask, a medical procedure mask, a respirator worn voluntarily, or a tightly woven fabric or non-woven material of at least two layers.”

In the case of a fabric mask, it should not allow light to pass through while holding it to a light source.

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According to a spokesperson for the Department of Industrial Relations, the “light test” is based on guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The idea is to “contain potentially infectious respiratory particles produced when coughing, sneezing or talking.”

“Cloth face coverings don’t need to completely block light — it’s just one way to help assess whether it’s made of tightly woven fabric or non-woven material. A light covering It’s also a good way to see if there’s a very small hole or perforation that wouldn’t normally be visible,” according to a department spokesperson.

The regulation has drawn criticism from some in the business community, who say it means cloth masks that allow light to shine through will no longer conform to state regulations.

“Employers really need to review the new rules closely, because there are significant changes to who gets to be tested, and when. In particular, employers are going to see more testing even for vaccinated individuals,” said Robert Moutri with the California Chamber of Commerce.

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