As COVID-19 infections rise, Cal/OSHA is issuing new guidelines for businesses to follow.
"Now all of a sudden, months and months later, Cal/OSHA is coming in and saying: "Oh, we want a plan;" it's called a WCPP, a Written Covid Prevention Program. So basically what [business owners] need to do is take what they already have and make sure every little nuance that Cal/OSHA wants is addressed in that," Sandra Dickerson, CEO of Your People Professionals, said.
The department's 20-page plan template includes cleaning and training practices, and updates to what happens when an employee gets exposed to the virus and has to self-quarantine.
"There may be some situations where you are being required by Cal/OSHA to quarantine someone, but they're not being directed by the health department, they're not being directed by a physician, and they don't have active symptoms. There might be some scenarios where they don't qualify for federal sick leave so an employer will have to pay it but not get reimbursed," Dickerson said.
"I think some of the concerns we have are more basic. When you're looking at the rules, Cal/OSHA requires you to determine if your employees are sick. How do you ensure that they've taken their temperature? How do you ensure they're coming in and they are healthy? Could you be fined for things that you've put in place and you believe are the right way? Are you going to be held personally liable if someone gets sick? I think there are going to be some long-term liabilities that end up costing businesses for malfeasance they did not intend for," Jim Dantona, President and CEO of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, said.
For non-profits like the SLO Food Bank, they say they have been following updates from the state closely as having people follow their COVID-19 procedures in the workplace is critical to their mission of feeding others.
"We are really in a vulnerable position because we are so prevalent in the community, particularly now with hunger increasing 154% in the county, our drivers are essential workers in this community," Garret Olson, CEO of the SLO Food Bank, said.
Business advocates say it's important to continue to support local businesses as they continue to adapt to new changes from the state.
"A healthy economy requires a healthy community. So we do understand that we need to make sure there's not a rampant spread of Covid because that will leave people at home - whether it's your employees, your customers, everything like that. [We'd like to see Cal/OSHA] just trying to give sensible recommendations so business owners can keep moving doing the work they have to do to keep people employed," Dantona said.
"Ultimately when you support those small businesses, you're supporting the food bank as well because we have seen that the face of hunger hasn't just changed in San Luis Obispo County, tragically it's become more familiar. It's the bartender at your favorite pub, it's the shop keeper at your favorite shop that has shuttered hours, it's your favorite artisan, it's your favorite guitar player at a coffee shop you enjoy - all of those folks are struggling right now. So when we lift our small businesses, we lift up their employees, that will ultimately benefit the food bank that will see those people be able to become more self-sustaining in their nutritional needs," Olson said.
A new requirement as part of this update requires employers to contact the local health department within 48 hours after learning of three or more COVID-19 cases and starting Jan. 1, Cal/OSHA can shut down an entire work site that exposes workers to an imminent COVID-19 hazard.