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Workplace COVID Standards Slowly Lessening

Last November, Cal/OSHA issued mandatory emergency temporary standards (ETS) to prevent the workplace spread of COVID-19. The standards applied to most California workers not covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATS) standard. See What’s New in 2021 – Infection Prevention Direction Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (February 5, 2021).

The revised June 17, 2021 ETS now incorporate the more relaxed California Department of Public Health (CDPH) face coverings and physical distancing requirements. For example:

Fully Vaccinated Employees

  • Need not be tested or excluded from work after close contact; and
  • Do not have to wear face coverings indoors except in certain outbreaks or other settings, i.e., public transit, K-12 educational facilities, health care and long-term care facilities, or correctional and detention facilities and shelters. Employers must, however, document employee vaccination status.

Non Fully-Vaccinated Employees

  • Must be offered free COVID testing if exhibiting symptoms;
  • Must wear face coverings indoors and in vehicles with others.  (Face coverings are now defined as surgical/medical procedure masks, respirators, or two layers of material with no visible holes or openings.  Scarves, ski masks, bandanas and single layer fabrics will no longer suffice); and
  • Shall receive respirators, such as N95 masks or equivalent, for voluntary use at no cost upon request to the employer. For one month only (to July 17, 2021), businesses can obtain N95 respirators free of charge at https://saferatwork.covid19.ca.gov/n95-distribution/

All Employees Regardless of Vaccination Status

  • Do not have to wear face coverings outdoors (except during certain outbreaks);
  • May wear a face covering without retaliation; and
  • Need not physically distance unless encountering a workplace hazard or major outbreak.

Additionally, employers must now review the Interim Guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments and evaluate ventilation and additional air cleaning systems.

Employers must continue to: ● implement an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program; ● screen employees for symptoms; ● notify public health departments of outbreaks; ● notify employees of exposure and close contacts; ● offer testing to certain individuals after potential exposures; ●continue quarantine and exclusion pay requirements; and ● re-implement physical distancing and barriers during certain outbreaks.

Cal/OSHA has issued a limited set of FAQs highlighting these revisions as well as an updated comprehensive set of FAQs.

For more information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See also:

Cindy Bamforth
June 25, 2021

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