The Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards, which employers have been scrambling the last few weeks to implement, was fashioned as a "temporary" [as the name suggests] fix to the COVID-19 problem here in California. However, recent comments by Newsom appointee Katrina Hagen, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, suggests that employers need to be bracing for a much more permanent standard which OSHA will be soon forcing employers to comply with.
She commented in recent Senate Rules Committee questioning, that OSHA does intend to create "a permanent standard," with respect to COVID-19 mitigation on the employer side, even in the face of ever-changing science and CDC guidance.
An already heavily burdened business community may now have to think long term with how they are going to maintain compliance. Employers all up and down the state were frustrated with the lack of business and community input when the initial ETS went into effect. Now, they are calling for meaningful debate on the new proposals, with the inclusion of the business community. This is especially poignant if DIR and OSHA want to make the ETS permanent in way one or another.
Of interesting note, Hagen did admit that OSHA failed to hold advisory meetings before the issuance of the original ETS, which caused much controversy. They did attempt to work with the employer base to allow for compliance, but most of the new regulation came as a hard reality for a lot of business all over California, with many employers scrambling to find the financial means to allow for compliance.
We will have to await OSHA's next move, but many think talk of permanent standards is a conversation that is being held prematurely. With still so much unknown about the virus, and a business community struggling to come out of crippling lock downs and over-regulation, maybe we should press pause before more is asked of our employers.
We do intend to issue a permanent standard, but recognize recognize that things are constantly changing within different CDC guidance and additional research. It's very possible that going forward we may modify the regulation.