It is well known that California’s workplace health and safety regulations direct employers to develop and implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”) to protect employees from workplace hazards. Some employers also have an obligation under the California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety & Health’s (“Cal OSHA”) Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (“ATD”) standard (Title 8 California Code of. Regulations (CCR) §5199) to take additional precautions to protect workers from airborne infectious diseases, such as coronavirus (“COVID-19”). To further address risks of exposure to COVID-19 from working with children, Cal OSHA recently issued guidance to childcare industry employers and program administrators on ‘COVID-19 Infection Prevention in Childcare Programs.’
In addition to reminding childcare industry employers of the importance of having an IIPP, Cal OSHA’s guidance instructs these employers to implement specific procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, which include:
- Having a comprehensive plan (i.e., procedures for daily check-ins and communications with parents and guardians) for how to share information on COVID-19 related issues, such as observed symptoms of COVID-19 infection and effective screening of children for COVID-19 infection;
- Coordinating with local health officials on what to do in the event someone at the childcare facility is determined to have COVID-19 infection;
- Educating children at the facility on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through proper hygiene practices (i.e., frequent hand washing, telling an adult when they do not feel well, coughing and sneezing etiquette, etc.);
- Setting up a plan for how to manage children that become sick at the facility (e.g., isolation, communication with parent or guardian, etc.); and
- Routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects at the facility using products that are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) for use against COVID-19.
Cal OSHA’s guidance also instructs childcare industry employers to train employees on how COVID-19 is spread, precautions employees should take to prevent the virus from spreading, COVID-19 symptoms, and when to seek medical assistance for children or employees. Under the guidance, childcare industry employers should also be training employees on the employer’s plan for managing children at the facility that become sick and the procedures established for protecting employees from COVID-19 infection.
While many childcare industry employers in California will already have some of these program components in place, Cal OSHA’s guidance makes clear that the agency expects these employers to incorporate COVID-19 specific measures and precautions into their IIPP and infection prevention procedures. Cal OSHA’s guidance also indicates that the agency expects childcare industry employers to educate children on COVID-19 so that they can also help prevent the virus from spreading at the facility. Following issuance of this guidance, Cal OSHA may view a childcare industry employer’s failure to incorporate COVID-19 specific details into their IIPP, infection prevention procedures, or training as a failure to take necessary precautions to protect against workplace hazards and pursue an enforcement action.
Jackson Lewis attorneys and the dedicated COVID-19 Task Force are available to assist employers with a review of their IIPP and procedures, as well as to answer any questions.