COVID-19, Critical Event Management, Employee Communication

Is Your Company Prepared for California’s AB 685?

By Aaron Kuhn

Maintain compliance and keep employees safe during the pandemic

The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard over the winter holidays in the United States, with California posting some of the largest state-wide numbers of new cases. According to The Washington Post, on December 17, 2020, California posted more than 50,000 new COVID-19 infections. Total cases topped 100,000 in 48 hours. On Thursday, January 14, 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported that one in three residents of L.A. County have been infected by COVID-19.

With the crisis in full swing and vaccine distribution off to a slow start, state lawmakers are looking, in part, to companies to help control the spread of the virus among their employees and contractors in 2021.

In September 2020, California passed Assembly Bill 685 (AB 685). According to The National Law Review, the bill requires employers to notify employees, unions and employers of subcontractors who have been at the employer’s worksite if a person at the worksite has:

  • Been ordered to quarantine due to COVID-19
  • Tested positive for COVID-19
  • Been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Died from COVID-19

The bill is effective for two years, from January 1, 2021, through January 1, 2023.

How Should the Alert Be Delivered?

Assembly Bill 685 also has clear guidelines on how staff members and subcontractors should be alerted. If they were physically present at the affected worksite during the infectious period, your company must let them know in writing via email, SMS or text message or personal messenger service. The California Department of Public Health defines the infectious period as 10 days since symptoms appeared until the infected person has been fever-free for 24 hours and their other symptoms have improved.

Further guidelines for alerts include the reasonable expectation that the message will reach the recipient in one business day and be written in English, as well as the language best understood by the majority of employees.

Once companies and employees are alerted about possible outbreaks and exposure, they can take action to stem the spread of the virus. While the new law could put additional pressure on companies at a time when the stakes are already high, there are simple ways to maintain compliance, safeguard employees and keep businesses running.

Critical event management (CEM) providers with critical communications, AI-powered risk intelligence and incident management capabilities, like OnSolve, can help companies not only alert employees of possible exposure, but also engage in organizational contact tracing and ensure supply chain continuity.

Crafting Your Message

The alert you send should let individuals know that they were at the same worksite as someone who met the criteria outlined above during the infectious period. But AB 685 also requires employers to provide information on the following:

  • Local, state or federal COVID-19 -related benefits information (i.e., workers’ compensation or state-mandated leave)
  • Anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation protection information
  • Employer plans for disinfection and safety per the guidelines provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Getting the message out doesn’t have to be labor-intensive. With the right technology in place, written alerts can be sent quickly to your employees, wherever they are located.

Solutions for AB 685 Compliance

Modern critical event management platforms, like OnSolve, include Critical Communications capabilities that allow you to manage contact information, poll and track responses, access reporting tools and target recipients using geo-location. With alerting software in place, you can efficiently notify employees of possible COVID-19 exposure.

The OnSolve Platform for Critical Event Management™ also includes AI-powered Risk Intelligence and Incident Management. Our COVID-19 solution provides organizational contact tracing, enables supply chain continuity and empowers your COVID-19 response team to collaborate and activate response plans while monitoring events in real time.

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