On June 3, after a tumultuous, multi-hour virtual hearing, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) approved a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19.
Coming on the heels of the governor’s announcement of a June 15 reopening of California and recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance stating that vaccinated individuals do not need to wear a mask, the new COVID-19 ETS provides limited flexibility on mask wearing and social distancing requirements. Specifically, the new standard:
- Ends, after July 31, the requirement that all employees working indoors are separated by at least six feet or, if not feasible, physical barriers
- Requires, after July 31, that employers provide a face covering and ensure they are worn by all employees. The face covering must have multiple layers of material and can be woven material.
- Permits face coverings to be removed when an employee is alone in their office or in a meeting where the employer has documentation that all employees in the meeting are vaccinated
- Permits face coverings to be removed when employees are eating, provided that the employees are at least six feet apart.
- Requires that, when an employer does not have documentation that an employee is fully vaccinated, the employer must provide N95 respirators for voluntary use
While the COVID-19 ETS exempts employees at acute care hospitals who remain under the Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standard, the COVID-19 ETS applies to all other employees. For hospitals, this may include employees in separate buildings, such as administrative or billing staff. Additionally, staff may be considered fully vaccinated under the regulation only if the employer has documentation that the employee is fully vaccinated. Hospitals with questions should consult their labor counsel.
According to the Department of Industrial Relations, the regulation is expected take effect no later than June 15, pending Office of Administrative Law approval. Additionally, OSHSB may further refine the standard as new data become available, such as availability of vaccines or case rates.