Masks can come off for vaccinated employees indoors or outdoors. Employers must verify the vaccination status. Physical distancing standards are also eliminated in many situations.
The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has approved revisions to the COVID emergency temporary standard, by a 5-1 vote. Soon after the vote, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order enabling the revisions to take effect without the normal 10-day approval period by the state Office of Administrative Law.
The vote came after more than four hours of testimony and discussion, and after two previous attempts to revise the controversial standard. The revisions become effective upon their filing with the California Secretary of State.
The key changes in the revisions are abandoning a controversial provision where all employees would have had to wear masks indoors if there were unvaccinated employees in the workplace. Physical distancing and barriers are removed from the ETS, regardless of vaccination status, as well. Physical distancing rules in employer-provided housing and transportation also are eliminated, if all employees are vaccinated.
Many employer-related stakeholders called for the emergency rule to be eliminated altogether, while labor called for preserving the original standard, prompting occupational safety representative Laura Stock’s no vote. Labor is now pushing for a permanent general industry standard on infectious aerosol diseases.
In the latest revision, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health sought to eliminate highly contentious provisions, while preserving what it calls key protections. Without continued protections, “Workers will bear the cost,” says DOSH Deputy Chief for Health Eric Berg.
But employer representatives continue to assert that the ETS is out of step with the rest of California. A Standards Board subcommittee slated to meet soon with DOSH to discuss further revisions should “formally announce to the public when you believe Californians have had enough of this regulation,” says Michael Miiller, director of government affairs for the California Association of Winegrape Growers.
A more substantive story will follow.
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