Cal/OSHA Board Adopts Updated COVID-19 Workplace Regulations

On Thursday, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) narrowly adopted, after initially rejecting, a new COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for California workplaces. Recall, Cal/OSHA previously proposed a revised ETS but then delayed action on the standard after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced updated and forthcoming guidance for use of face coverings among vaccinated persons.

During the Thursday meeting, OSHSB members initially rejected the proposed revised ETS based on concerns raised by business groups and employers. However, minutes later, the board re-voted and adopted the proposed revised ETS after realizing that rejecting the new rules would always require everyone to physically distance and wear masks in the workplace, pursuant to the existing ETS. With the updated ETS approved by OSHSB, the standard now is reviewed by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). If OAL approves the new ETS, the majority of the standard becomes effective on June 15, the same day the state plans to retire the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Some of the rule’s provisions will take effect July 31, 2021.

The updated ETS more closely aligns with the latest available guidelines from the CDC and CDPH and requires all employees to wear masks when in a workplace setting with unvaccinated persons. If all persons in the same room in the workplace are vaccinated, however, masks are not required. Outdoor masking is not required except for unvaccinated employees at mega events of more than 10,000 people.

OSHSB also convened a subcommittee to work with Cal/OSHA on a proposal for further updates to the standard as part of the emergency rulemaking process. It is anticipated the newest and yet-to-be-developed standard will be heard at an upcoming OSHSB meeting.

Additional information from Cal/OSHA on the adoption of the new COVID-19 standard is available here.