On May 7, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Logistics and Warehousing Facilities, which provides detailed guidance to logistics and warehouse facilities on how to support a safe and clean work environment for workers in order to avoid the outbreak and transmittal of COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance includes a discussion of five key areas of interest for employers during the COVID-19 crisis: a worksite specific plan; topics for employee training; individual control measures and screening; an overview of cleaning and disinfecting protocols; and physical distancing guidelines.
Absent a comprehensive worksite specific plan and adherence to the plan, Cal/OSHA warns that facilities could face operations being temporarily closed or limited in the event of an outbreak in the workplace.
Key Elements of Guidance
Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 General Checklist for Logistics and Warehousing Employers, which summarizes the guidance, identifies the specific elements of the five areas of interest listed above. Here are the key points employers need to know about this new guidance:
Written worksite-specific prevention plan
The guidance encourages employers to create “a written worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan” that includes the following:
- a risk assessment;
- the measures that employers will take to prevent the spread of the virus based on the risk assessment;
- regularly evaluating the workplace for plan compliance, and documenting and correcting deficiencies;
- investigating COVID-19 cases; and
- “processes to identify new cases of illness in the workplaces, and when they are identified,” to quickly intervene and notify the local health department.
The guidance directs employers to designate a worker who will be responsible for implementing the plan. It also directs employers to “[t]rain and communicate with employees and employee representatives on the plan.”
In addition to training on the plan, the guidance reminds employers to train workers on the following COVID-19 topics: information on the disease, “[s]elf-screening at home,” the importance of hand washing, “[t]he importance of physical distancing,” and the “[p]roper use of face coverings.” Importantly, the guidance recommends training workers to stay home if they are experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or if they live with someone that has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Individual control measures and screening
The guidance recommends that employers reinforce the training they provide to workers by encouraging them to stay home if they are sick or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, wash their hands frequently, and use face coverings, among other recommendations. The guidance states that employers “should provide and ensure workers use all required protective equipment” and consider the use of disposable gloves for certain workers. The guidance includes temperature checks and symptom screenings among recommended individual control measures and screenings.
Cleaning and disinfecting protocols
The guidance reminds employers of the importance cleaning and disinfecting protocols and providing workers time before and after their shifts to implement these protocols (and that workers who are assigned cleaning duties must be compensated for the time spent cleaning). The guidance also highlights unique issues that delivery drivers may be facing.
The guidance advises workers to inspect deliveries and, if the items appear to have been tampered with, perform disinfection measures before storing them in a facility.
Finally, the guidance emphasizes the importance of implementing strategies that allow for physical distancing including, but not limited to, using “work practices” to limit the number of workers present within a facility and allow for physical distancing. For example, employers can stagger shift start/end times and breaks.
The guidance does not substitute any existing safety and health-related regulatory requirements such as those of Cal/OSHA nor is it exhaustive as it does not include county health orders.
The guidance reminds employers of the importance of ensuring a safe and clean work environment for workers and educating workers on COVID-19, including its symptoms and how the virus is transmitted. Perhaps the most critical feature of the guidance is the recommendation that employers create a written COVID-19 prevention plan because this will assist in avoiding confusion among workers as to the safety measures being implemented and expectations.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.