Cal/OSHA Adopts New COVID-19 ETS, Newsom Expedites Regulations

On Thursday, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) adopted revisions to the state’s COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards (ETS) that govern most workplaces throughout the state. OSHSB’s updates to the ETS follow several weeks of back-and-forth actions by the regulatory board as a result of updates to other federal and state COVID-19 regulations and public health guidelines.

The new ETS adopted on Thursday align with the latest public health guidance on the use of face coverings for vaccinated persons and reflect rising vaccination rates statewide. The revisions to the ETS now allow fully vaccinated employees to go maskless in indoor work settings if employers document the status of fully vaccinated employees. Physical distancing requirements have been eliminated except where an employer determines there is a hazard, and employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators for voluntary use from their employer at no cost and without fear of retaliation from employers. Also of note, employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.

The revised ETS, adopted on a 5-1 vote with one member absent, would normally go to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review and approval before taking effect statewide. Governor Gavin Newsom, however, following OSHSB’s vote on the ETS, issued Executive Order N-09-21 enabling the revised regulations to take effect immediately without the 10-day review period by OAL.

Additional information from Cal/OSHA is available here. Information on the Governor’s executive order is available here.