“Please make sure you take all your belongings with you when you exit this ride…”
Is this rollercoaster finally returning to the station? Yesterday, June 17, 2021, California Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board met (again) and voted (again) on the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) that are governing COVID-19 regulation for our workplaces. The seven (7) member panel listened to two (2) hours of public comment prior to making their decision where they voted in favor of the most recent revised version of the Emergency Temporary Standards. Rather than these revisions making their way to the Office of Administrative Law for a 10-day review period, Governor Gavin Newsom penned an Executive Order within the hour making these new guidelines effective immediately.
If you have found it hard to keep up with the constant transformations, you have come to the right place, because TPPS has been keeping our fingers on the pulse of COVID-19 regulations in the workplace. Below is a review of where we have landed and what life in the workplace can look like effective June 17th.
Face Coverings. This has been a huge topic of discussion as the state ‘reopened’ on June 15thand permitted fully vaccinated individuals to shed their masks in nearly all settings. But until the 17th,employers were still required to mandate masks for all employees in the workplace.
- Fully vaccinated employees: As of the signing of the Executive Order on June 17th, fully vaccinated employees can be mask free (regardless of the entire population’s vaccination status) so long as it is permitted by the state and the employer (masks are still required for public transit).
- Unvaccinated employees: Are required to remain masked indoors or in vehicles but can be without masks in outdoor settings.
- Face coverings: Employers are required to provide face coverings for unvaccinated employees that request them. This includes N95 respirators. There is currently no clarification on the potentially required training and fit testing of these N95 respirators, nor how this will impact the supply chain. Stay tuned.
Vaccination Status. The revised ETS requires that employers gather and maintain information regarding employee vaccination but does not specify how such documentation must be obtained and stored. It does, however, provide that employers can gather this information by self-attestation. It is important to remember that this information, once received, must be stored securely and confidentially and any forms, be it self-attestation or copies of vaccination cards, should be kept separate and apart from general personnel files (within a medical file).
Physical Distancing. The revised ETS has removed all physical distancing guidelines to better align with Governor Newsom’s reopening guidelines.
“Exposed Group” replaces “Exposed Workplace”. This revision makes a clear delineation from previous guidance and now provides that when there is a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, only those in the exposed group are required to be excluded. Employees that are fully vaccinated with no symptoms, or those that have recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days and do not develop symptoms, are not required to be excluded. Previously this extended to the entire workplace.
Testing. Testing for workplace outbreaks will now apply only to those in the exposed group.
· Minor outbreaks– are defined as three (3) or more confirmed COVID-19 cases that live in separate households within a 14-day period. The following are exempt from testing in the event of a minor outbreak:
- Fully vaccinated employees that are symptom free;
- Individuals that have fully recovered from COVID-19 within the last 90 days and have returned to work with no development of symptoms; and
- Individuals that had COVID-19 within the past 90 days and were asymptomatic.
· Major Outbreaks-are defined as 20 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in an exposed workplace within a 30-day period. All individuals in the exposed group are required to be tested, regardless of vaccination status.
Now what? Organizations need to make the decision on what they will do. It is absolutely within your rights to maintain a face mask policy for all employees. If you will be permitting fully vaccinated employees to go mask free, prepare a self-attestation for employees to sign and make sure that this information is stored correctly and safeguarded. If you have questions, reach out to TPPS for guidance. We are here to support you.
It is expected that continued communication will be coming from Cal/OSHA and frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been updated on the site with more on their way. Remember that TPPS is here to decipher this information for you and guide you through these business decisions. Until this ride has come to a complete stop, please remain seated.
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