Last month, I wrote about SB-1159, what it means for California employers, and how to best prepare to comply. Today, I want to talk about another new state law aimed largely at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, AB 685, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. There are several components of AB 685 that will require action on the part of California employers. We will discuss all aspects of the law in detail over the coming months, but today, I’m going to focus on one component: notification requirements.
AB 685 requires employers to notify workers, vendors and anyone else who came into their facility of any new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours. The law does not specify the format of this notification of potential exposure, only that it happens. Employers can prepare for January 2021 right now by immediately implementing a sign in/sign out log for anyone entering a facility. There are so many factors to consider around the holidays, at the end of the calendar year and the start of a new one. Don’t wait another two months. Implement this system now, so it will become second nature by January and you will be ahead of the curve.
A comprehensive log will track the following: date, name, company, reason for visit, arrival time, departure time, cell phone number and email address. With all of this information at the ready, businesses will be prepared to easily provide proper notification within 24 hours of learning of a new case. Sending both a text message and an email (request a read receipt, if possible) will ensure all bases are covered.
Many businesses already have a visitor log for vendors and other guests. Those that do should expand that log to include employees and anyone who comes on site. Those that don’t have an existing system should create one. If you take the extra step of including employees in the same log, you won’t have to worry about tracking down which salaried employees worked on a specific day, which may have called in sick, when an hourly employee clocked in or out, or whether someone who wasn’t originally scheduled for that day ended up covering a shift for someone else. It will all be right there in the log.
Another aspect of AB 685 is a requirement that companies notify local public health agencies when a worksite has a COVID-19 outbreak. As we discussed with the implementation of SB-1159, the responsibility for diagnosing an outbreak – including breaking up employees by employment site and evaluating cases within a time period – does not fall on an employer. It is your carrier’s responsibility. If your carrier does make that determination, however, under AB 685, it is your responsibility to notify the appropriate public health agencies within 48 hours. The required notices must include the contact numbers, occupations and worksites of employees who are considered qualifying individuals. Employers must also report the business addresses and NAICS codes of the worksites where those individuals work.
Finally, following the reporting of an outbreak, AB 685 authorizes the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to issue stop-work orders for facilities or operations that pose an imminent COVID-19 hazard to workers. At this point, we have not been given enough details about this specific component of the law to expand upon it. We are awaiting further clarification on what constitutes an imminent hazard and how/when stop-work orders will be issued. As soon as we receive that information, I’ll share what I’ve learned to clarify that aspect of AB 685 and what it actually means for California employers.
While this law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, the provisions specific to COVID-19 will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2023. At that point, the provisions regarding imminent hazard situations will continue to apply more broadly to other hazards.