Last week, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) voted to revise the “emergency temporary standards” concerning COVID-19 prevention in the workplace.  The new standards will go into effect no later than June 15.

The original standards, which have been in effect since November of last year, provide rules regarding social distancing, face coverings, and keeping employees with COVID and/or close contacts out of the workplace.

The new standards relax, but do not entirely eliminate, the strict set of rules.  These revisions have been expected since the vaccine has become more readily available.

Below is a summary of key changes to the standards:

Written Prevention Program

  • Despite the relaxed standards, employers still must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP) in place.
  • If you already have a written CPP in place, please let us know and we will assist with updating it pursuant to the new standards.
  • If you do not have a written CPP in place yet, we are happy to prepare one for you.

Face Coverings

  • Fully vaccinated workers will no longer need to wear face coverings indoors, but ONLY if everyone in the room is vaccinated and not showing COVID symptoms.
  • Fully vaccinated workers will no longer need to wear face coverings outdoors.
  • Unvaccinated workers will need to wear face coverings outdoors only if they are within 6 feet of another person.

Social Distancing

  • Employers will be able eliminate physical distancing and partitions/barriers for employees working indoors, but ONLY if they provide respirators, such as N95s, to unvaccinated employees for voluntary use.

Exclusion from the workplace

  • Fully vaccinated workers will not need to be excluded from the workplace after a close contact with a COVID case, unless the vaccinated worker shows symptoms.

Keep in mind that while these changes have been approved, they are not yet effective. Until June 15, the original standards remain in effect.

The new standards may also be subject to further tweaking before becoming effective.

This is a major development for COVID-19 protocols in the workplace.  Notably, this is the first time Cal/OSHA has issued rules that will treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees differently.

If you have questions about whether to require vaccination, requesting proof of vaccination, or otherwise developing a vaccination policy for your workplace, please let us know and we would be happy to assist.

For more information on the new standards and Cal/OSHA’s COVID guidance, including frequently asked questions, you may visit the Cal/OSHA COVID webpage.