COVID reopening: Cal/OSHA delays debate on lifting virus rules for workers

By June 2, 2021 No Comments

The California Occupational Standards Board is considering changing proposed COVID-19 emergency regulations in light of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recent guidance that fully vaccinated people can now skip face coverings and distancing in virtually all situations.

Cal/OSHA’s staff said it would aim “to make possible a targeted effective date of June 15, 2021,” instead of proceeding with a proposal that would have made businesses wait until July 31 to ease some pandemic restrictions. It also would impose new requirements that dozens of business groups called too onerous.

“This is great news and it will make the regulation more workable,” Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable Director Helen Cleary told the board. But the coalition of large businesses also believes the proposed requirements would “create new unnecessary burdens and requirements,” she said.

Business groups are particularly upset with a provision in the proposal requiring that employers provide masks for voluntary use starting July 31.

Cleary said a majority of companies have decided not to require employees to be vaccinated or to track their vaccination status, which she said raise potential privacy and enforcement risks.

“Related to face coverings, N95s and physical distancing, are so restrictive, that to comply with them, an employer with a large workforce will be pushed to track vaccination status,” Cleary said.

The board’s staff is now reconsidering rules that would require workers to wait until July 31 before they can stop wearing masks indoors and distancing, unless everyone in the same room is fully vaccinated and not showing coronavirus symptoms.

“Exemptions for fully vaccinated employees will not work if 100% of the workforce must be vaccinated to benefit,” Cleary said.

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