Guidance for the use of Face Coverings
The California Department of Public Health (DPH) today released updated guidance that requires Californians to wear a face covering in "high-risk settings." DPH reports, “A growing body of scientific research has shown that people with no or few symptoms of COVID-19 can still spread the disease and that the use of face coverings, combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, will reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Employers should confer with their HR professionals and legal counsel to update their Injury and Illness Prevention Program to reflect all guidance documents.

What is a face covering?

The guidance defines cloth face covering as “a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.”

How does this apply to growers?
How this guidance applies to growers is a bit unclear. A face covering is required when a person is “engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site,” when interacting with the public, in areas where food is prepared, or working indoors. This would not seem to apply to vineyard work. 
However, the guidance requires a face covering in the following situations; which may apply to grower employees:
  • Driving a ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. When no passengers are present, face coverings are strongly recommended.
  • While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.
The guidance also states persons who are engaged in outdoor work ... when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others are exempt from wearing a face covering. This presumably means that if employees are ever less than six feet apart, they will need face covering.

It is generally advised to err on the side of caution and assure that employees are provided face coverings. In some counties, this has already been required for several weeks. Growers in those counties have been providing face coverings for any worker who shows up to work without a face covering. 
It is important to keep in mind that the DPH guidance contains a variety of exemptions, including when the health condition of the individual prevents wearing a face covering. Therefore, considerations should be made on a workplace-by-workplace, employee-by-employee basis. 
Employers need to review this new DPH guidance in consultation with HR professionals and legal counsel to determine what is required in any specific situation.
If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate in reaching out to:
Michael Miiller, CAWG's Director of Government Relations