California EHS News

By July 1, 2021 No Comments

California loosens mask rules for vaccinated employees

California on June 17 moved to end physical distancing requirements for all workers and allow most fully vaccinated employees in many workplaces to stop wearing masks, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

The 5-1 decision from the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board followed more than two hours of public comment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order almost immediately after the decision to allow the revisions to take effect without the typical waiting period.

Workplaces still will be required to provide masks to workers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and make sure they wear the face coverings while indoors or in shared workplace vehicles or employer-provided transportation. Employers also will have to provide a respirator such as an N95 mask if an employee who is not yet fully vaccinated requests one.

Employers have to document the vaccination status of employees if they’re going to go without face coverings indoors, but they don’t have to retain copies of vaccine cards, and employees can also self-attest to their inoculation status.

Some said at the June 17 meeting that even relaxed masking rules would foment hostility toward those who are unvaccinated and effectively force people to wear a “scarlet letter” advertising their private medical decisions.

Business representatives also said any requirement to provide N95 masks would be unduly onerous and objected to the idea that they should be required to confirm their employees’ vaccination status or enforce the rules that come with that determination.

“We trust our employees every day, including not coming to work with COVID-19 symptoms,” said Helen Cleary, director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable, a business coalition. “We need to respect decisions not to get vaccinated, trust that people understand the risk and acknowledge natural immunity.”

California’s drought and wildfire dangers rising at stunning pace

California’s drought and wildfire conditions are accelerating at unprecedented rates, according to state officials, and residents should brace for a summer of widespread burning and mandatory water conservation measures in some regions.

Officials offered a bleak assessment of the state’s drying climate, saying it has already begun to affect people, plants and animals. Reservoir levels across the state continue to drop, and parched vegetation poses an increasing threat of wildfire.

California utilities anticipate big wildfire risk

PG&E Corp. will likely proactively cut power this fall to up to 16 million customers in Northern and Central California in anticipation of extreme wildfire risk, according to The Wall Street Journal. Southern California Edison also faces extreme fire risk throughout its service territory and relies on proactive shut-offs to mitigate it.

California is in the midst of a crippling drought that is expected to heighten fire risk throughout the summer and fall. About 85 percent of the state faces extreme drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, up from three percent this time last year. Gov. Gavin Newsom has authorized emergency mitigation efforts in many areas.

PG&E relies on public safety power shut-offs after its power lines sparked a series of wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people. PG&E cut power a record nine outages in 2019 that affected a total of two million people. Many were in the dark for days. Recently installed devices allow for more targeted, smaller outages and the company has built out a network of weather stations and cameras to monitor conditions in more detail.

Southern California Edison expects fewer proactive shut-offs this year, partly due to more insulated power lines that are less prone to sparking.

The state’s dry weather conditions could be exacerbated this fire season if seasonal winds are as strong as they have been in recent years.

Protect Yourself: Wildfire Smoke Employee Training – Updated to conform with California’s now-permanent standard. The state of Washington is considering a similar law. Click here for the Phylmar Academy Course.

California offers digital record of coronavirus vaccination

California in late June started offering residents a digital record of their coronavirus vaccinations that they can use to access businesses or events that require proof they got the shots, according to the Associate Press.

The state’s public health and technology departments said the new tool allows Californians access to their COVID-19 vaccination records from the state’s immunization registry and includes the same information as the paper cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To access the information, Californians will enter into a state website their name, date of birth and email or phone associated with their vaccine records and they will be asked to create a four-digit PIN. The record will include a QR code that users can save to their mobile phones.

With nearly 20 million people fully vaccinated in California and proof of vaccination already required in some circumstances such as travel, state health officials felt there would be demand for the tool, though it remains optional, said Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s epidemiologist.

“The odds are someone is going to misplace their paper CDC card and a digital COVID-19 vaccine record provides a convenient backup,” she told reporters.

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