Cal/OSHA has issued guidance on how agricultural industry employers should ensure employees’ safety with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cal/OSHA has further informed employers to check its website frequently, as its recommendations and guidelines are not final and are subject to change.
Given the daily changing legal landscape, we strongly encourage employers to reach out to Raimondo & Associates with questions regarding specific situations. We are closely monitoring these developments. Because of these frequent developments, and the need to adapt the general guidance below to specific circumstances, employers should consult counsel regarding specific circumstances.
At a general level, the legal rules and guidance we summarize below should not be applied in a manner that would prevent employers from taking reasonable, common-sense steps to protect the health and safety of employees, customers, vendors and their communities. There are many nuances and fact-specific elements that make individualized legal counsel on these questions of critical importance.
Q: Do I have any OSHA or Cal/OSHA required information I must provide my employees regarding COVID-19?
California employers are required to establish and implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) to protect employees from all worksite hazards, including infectious diseases. Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 guidance does not impose any new legal obligations upon employers; however, employers must consider COVID-19 a workplace hazard due to its widespread contamination throughout the State.
Q: What type of information does Cal/OSHA require that I provide my employees?
California employers must provide employees information related to COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including what COVID-19 is and how it is spread; how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if the employee is sick; and COVID-19 symptoms and when to seek medical attention. Employers must also inform employees about California’s COVID-19 Response Webpage, which contains information on additional resources, including information in Spanish.
Q: As an agricultural business, my employees are all working outside. Do they still need to practice social distancing?
Yes. Agricultural employers should ensure their employees are practicing physical distancing, whether outdoors, in vehicles, or in structures. Employers must modify their work practices, work stations, and adjust line speed and other processes to ensure employees are able to maintain safe physical distancing while working. Employers should also stagger break and lunch times, limit crew sizes by staggering work shift, and increase the number of work shifts, if needed. Break sites should include sufficient amenities to ensure that employees are able to take breaks while staying at least six feet apart. Employers should also establish a location for receiving regular deliveries away from on-farm high-traffic areas and housing. Employers should also provide instructions to suppliers and customers with the location of, and all procedures to be used at, the drop-off location.
Q: What penalties do I face if I do not comply with Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 guidelines?
Failure to adhere to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 guidelines subjects the employer to Cal/OSHA’s standard penalty table for failure to adhere to its directives.