Issue 104 - October 2020
Assembly Bill 685: Notice and Reporting Obligations for COVID-19 Workplace Exposure
By Tim Karcz, Senior Risk Manager
On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 685 into law. The law, which imposes new reporting requirements and expands Cal/OSHA’s authority with regards to COVID-19, goes into effect on January 1, 2021 except for certain aspects as noted below. California JPIA members are encouraged to review and understand the following requirements and provisions:
Authority to Enforce COVID-19 Hazards
AB 685 expands the authority Cal/OSHA has when they believe that COVID-19 is creating an imminent hazard in a workplace. Consistent with Cal/OSHA’s current authority for protecting workers, the bill enables Cal/OSHA to do the following when they determine that an imminent hazard related to COVID-19 exists:
- Prohibit entry or access to a worksite
- Prohibit performance of an operation or process at the worksite, or
- Require posting of an imminent hazard notice at the worksite.
- Authority to issue citations for serious violations relating to COVID-19 without providing the typical 15-day advanced notice period.
New Notification/Reporting Requirements
Employers are required to take the following actions within one business day of receiving a notice of potential exposure to COVID-19:
- Provide written notice to all employees and the employer of subcontracted workers who were on the premises at the same “worksite” as the qualifying individual within the infectious period that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Provide written notice to the exclusive representative of the employees above (i.e. – unions).
- Provide all employees who may have been exposed with any information regarding COVID-19 benefits to which the employee may be entitled (workers compensation, sick leave, other, etc.).
- Notify all employees on the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement and complete per the guidelines found in the CDC.
Notice can be delivered in a manner the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information (written, email, text message).
Employers are also required to notify their local public health department of a COVID-19 outbreak. For non-healthcare workplaces, this is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period. This notice must be provided within 48 hours of the employer learning of the outbreak and must contain the following information:
- Information about the worksite (name of organization, address, industry codes)
- The number of cases at the worksite, including the names and occupations of the qualifying individuals.
- Any other pertinent information
Once the outbreak at the worksite is reported, the employer is required to continue to notify the local health department of any subsequent cases. Note that the requirement to notify local health departments is currently in effect, while the remaining portions of the bill go into effect on January 1, 2021.
What is a Notice of Potential Exposure?
One of the primary questions that arise is what constitutes a notice of potential exposure. An employer is considered to have notice of potential exposure to COVID-19 at a worksite when any of the following occur:
- The employer receives notice from a public health official or licensed medical provider that an employee was exposed to a qualifying individual at thew worksite.
- The employer receives notice from an employee, or their emergency contact that the employee is a qualifying individual.
- The employer receives notice through the testing protocol of the employer that the employee is a qualifying individual.
- The employer receives notice from a subcontracted employer that a qualifying individual was on the worksite of the employer receiving notification.
The employer must maintain records of the written notifications required for a period of at least three years.
- Complete bill text for AB 685 can be found by clicking here.
- Formal definitions related to the bill’s reporting requirements are provided by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) through their definitions page, which can be found by clicking here.
- The CDHP has a guidance document for compliance with AB 685. This document can be found on the CDHP’s website, or by clicking here.
- Additional resources on COVID-19, including legislative information, webinars, and health and safety guidance, can be found on the Authority’s website.
For more information on this bill or to discuss its implications for your agency, please contact your regional Risk Manager.< Back to Full Issue Print Article