No, employers may not go back “to normal” in the workplace yet. But the June Cal/OSHA Revised Emergency Temporary Standards include several changes that allow for relaxation of prior requirements. The new regulation also includes some new employer responsibilities.
Note that different regulations may apply to certain employers, such as those subject to the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standards or in certain health care situations.
Some highlights of the revised standard:
- Fully-vaccinated employees need not wear masks, indoors or outdoors, except during an outbreak or other narrowly defined circumstances. BUT – before fully-vaccinated employees shed their masks, employers must document that they are fully vaccinated (meaning two weeks have passed since they completed their shots).
- Employees who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks indoors, with limited exceptions such as being in a room alone or eating/drinking. In addition, employers must provide respirator masks for unvaccinated employees if they request them. Employees who are not fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks outdoors, except during an outbreak or other narrowly defined circumstances.
- Employers may not prevent employees from wearing a mask voluntarily and may not retaliate against employees who choose to do so.
Vaccine Status Documentation
Employers will need to document the status of employees if they want to take advantage of allowing fully-vaccinated employees to forgo masks or to avoid workplace exclusions after exposures. You can do this in several ways.
- Keeping copies of employees’ vaccine cards (in a separate confidential health record file)
- Asking to see employees’ vaccine cards and keeping a list of names without keeping copies of the cards
- Asking the employees to “self-attest” as to their status, and documenting those self-attestations
An employee who refuses to provide documentation should be treated as unvaccinated.
Workplace Exclusion and Testing
- Fully-vaccinated employees without symptoms need not be tested or excluded from the workplace after “close contact” with a COVID-19 case.
- Testing is required during working time and at no cost to:
- Unvaccinated employees
- after an exposure to a COVID-19 case
- in an outbreak
- when the employee has symptoms
- Vaccinated employees who develop symptoms after an exposure to a COVID-19 case
- Unvaccinated employees
Physical distancing is no longer required except during an outbreak (as defined) or an employer is required to assess the workplace for hazards. You can still require physical distancing if you wish.
Your training requirements are expanded to include training your employees:
- On the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 and protecting against transmission;
- On the fact that respirator masks protect the wearer while regular masks primarily protect people around the wearer;
- The conditions under which face masks must be worn at work; and
- The availability of respirator masks.
Also, you must update your written COVID-19 Prevention Program to reflect the new rules. Cal/OSHA provided an updated COVID-19 Model Prevention Program to assist employers.
In the event of an outbreak (3 or more COVID-19 cases) or a major outbreak (20 or more) at a worksite, stricter masking and social distancing rules, as well as other requirements, go into effect.
For more detail, visit Cal/OSHA’s FAQ on the revisions.
Finally and Importantly: The Cal/OSHA regulation has changed. But other laws relating to COVID-19 remain in effect. So, you still must comply with paid sick leave for COVID-19-related issues; and notice requirements to employees, your workers’ compensation carrier, and public health authorities in the event of a COVID-19 case at a worksite. To fulfill these obligations, you must continue to track which employees are where on a given workday and maintain those records.
Related practice team: Labor and Employment