By: Philip A. Toomey, Esq.
One of the most understood concepts of COVID-19 workplace safety- the definition of what constitutes “close contact”- changed last month. The change has led to a fair amount of uncertainty.
Since the onset of the pandemic, “close contact” was defined as being within six feet of an infected person, during their period of infection, for at least 15 minutes. That is why “social distancing” floor stickers in the local grocery store are six feet apart. On June 8, 2022, the California Department of Health (“CDPH”) redefined the term “close contact” to mean sharing the same indoor space (e.g., home, clinical waiting room, airplane, etc.) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. This new definition applies to California employers under Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards, because the CDPH definitions control the ETS.
The CDPH issued updated Frequently Asked Questions guidance on June 20, 2022. The FAQs appeared to permit employers to “prioritize” which close contacts needed to be identified. The FAQs implied employers might not be required to identify “lower risk” exposures, including those of less intensity and duration. However, the ETS does not currently permit “prioritization” of exposures. Under the ETS, employers remain obligated after each “close contact” exposure to require tests, possible quarantine, record information, and provide employee notice.
Due to this confusion, California employers should carefully review and follow the more restrictive Cal/OSHA rules. Which means, for the time being, an employee who shared the same indoor space for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, even if that was on the far side of the warehouse, should be regarded as “exposed.”
If you have any questions about what “close contact” entails and how it affects you, please contact Philip A. Toomey, the National Chair of Leech Tishman’s Employment and Labor practice group. Philip can be reached at 424.738.4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leech Tishman’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/leechtishman
Leech Tishman’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeechTishman
Leech Tishman’s Company Page on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/leech-tishman
Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl is a full-service law firm dedicated to assisting individuals, businesses, and institutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in business restructuring & insolvency, construction, corporate matters, employment & labor, estates & trusts, intellectual property, litigation & alternative dispute resolution, and real estate. In addition, the firm offers a wide range of legal services to clients in the aviation & aerospace, cannabis, emerging cyber technologies, energy & natural resources, healthcare, and hospitality industries. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, and Washington, D.C.