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Cal/OSHA’s New COVID-19 Office Workspace Guidance Offers Cleaning and Distancing Protocols

On May 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Office Workspaces, which provides detailed guidance for operating in office workspaces to “support a safe, clean environment for employees” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Cal/OSHA issued a corresponding checklist.

Similar to other industry guidelines recently issued by Cal/OSHA, the guidance for businesses operating in office workspaces recommends that businesses create and implement worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plans and regularly evaluate offices to confirm compliance with the plans. Additionally, the guidance suggests that employees be trained on worksite plans and on the importance of handwashing, physical distancing, and the proper use of face coverings. The guidance further recommends that employees and any personnel entering an office workspace receive temperature and/or symptom screenings—as Cal/OSHA has suggested for several industry types. The guidance for office workspaces, however, diverges from Cal/OSHA’s other industry guidelines in its recommendations regarding cleaning and disinfecting protocols and in its physical distancing guidelines.

Guidance for Office Workspaces

Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols

The guidance recommends that businesses thoroughly and regularly clean and disinfect high-traffic areas, commonly used surfaces, and items that must be shared, such as copiers, fax machines, printers, keyboards, and telephones. The guidance advises that employees, to the extent possible, avoid sharing work supplies and equipment. Additionally, the guidance states that employers should require employees to clean and disinfect their personal work areas and provide employees with the necessary cleaning products to do so. The guidance recommends that employers use cleaning products that are approved for use against COVID-19. Finally, per the guidance, employers should consider installing portable air cleaners, upgrading air filters, and “making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in offices and other spaces.”

Physical Distancing

To ensure physical distancing of at least six feet, the guidance offers businesses the following recommendations:

  • “Utilize telework options and modified work schedules.”

  • “Establish directional hallways and passageways for foot traffic” to eliminate or, at least, minimize the frequency of employees passing by one another.

  • “Limit the number of individuals riding in an elevator and ensure the use of face coverings.”

  • “Utilize work practices … to limit the number of employees at the office at one time” by, for example, “establishing alternate days for onsite reporting, returning to the office workspace in phases, or continu[ing] use of telework when feasible.”

The guidance suggests that when visitors arrive, businesses “[d]edicate staff to direct guests . . . upon entry to [the] office” so that guests do not congregate in lobbies or common areas.

Finally, the guidance recommends that businesses evaluate the necessity of redesigning office spaces (e.g., cubicle areas), decreasing the capacity of persons permitted in conference rooms, and installing “production transfer-aiding materials … to reduce person-to-person production hand-offs” and ensure workspaces allow for six feet between employees.

Key Takeaways

To ensure a safe and clean workspace for employees, employers may want to review the guidance in its entirety and, as suggested by the guidance, implement additional measures for vulnerable populations.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 142


About this Author

Carmen M. Aguado Labor & Employment Attorney Ogletree Deakins Law Firm

Carmen Aguado is an associate in the firm’s Los Angeles office, and her practice focuses on defending employers in single plaintiff employment matters filed in state and federal court. Carmen has substantial experience defending employers against claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), wrongful termination claims, and whistleblower actions. In addition to employment matters, prior to joining Ogletree, Carmen litigated high-exposure personal injury matters.

Carmen received her...

Robert R. Roginson labor and employment litigation lawyer Ogletree Deakins Law Firm

Robert Roginson is the Managing Shareholder of the Los Angeles Office and Chair of the Firm’s Trucking and Logistics Industry Group.  His practice focuses on all aspects of California and federal wage and hour and pay practice counseling and class action defense.

Mr. Roginson represents employers in administrative agency investigations and state and federal class action litigation. Mr. Roginson has defended dozens of employers, motor carriers, and other companies in class actions and PAGA lawsuits involving a variety of allegations, including worker misclassification, meal and rest period violations, reimbursement claims, off-the-clock claims, and record keeping violations.  He also counsels employers and companies on California and federal wage and hour and pay practice laws, federal preemption matters, prevailing wage laws, project labor agreements (PLAs), labor relations and union matters.  Mr. Roginson is regarded by clients as a trusted strategic advisor focused on developing effective and practical solutions to complex legal employment challenges.  He is adept at developing compliant policies and practices to avoid and minimize litigation.

Mr. Roginson focuses a significant portion of his practice to counseling and representing contractors, developers, and companies regarding state and federal prevailing wage laws, including the Service Contract Act and Davis-Bacon Act.  Mr. Roginson counsels national employers on steps to achieve multi-state compliance with state prevailing wage laws.  Mr. Roginson regularly defends contractors and subcontractors against DLSE Civil Wage and Penalty Assessments, seeks public works coverage determinations, and analyzes and counsels clients on complex public works coverage issues.  While Chief Counsel of the DLSE, Mr. Roginson co-wrote and edited the DLSE’s Public Works Manual.  Before becoming an attorney, Mr. Roginson worked in the industrial relations department for a multi-employer construction trade where he represented construction contractors in labor grievance and arbitration matters in addition to the negotiation of the Southern California building trades master labor agreements.

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