State laws Workplace exposures

Washington L&I issues new guidelines on workplace masking

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Photo: Bill Oxford/iStockphoto

Tumwater, WA — Fully vaccinated workers in Washington state do not have to wear masks or follow physical distancing protocol unless otherwise required to do so by their employer, according to updated COVID-19 workplace safety and health guidance from the state’s Department of Labor & Industries.

Released on May 21, the updated guidance aligns with new masking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – released May 16 and adopted by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D). According to CDC, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final required shot. The state’s updated guidelines note that employers must confirm that workers are fully vaccinated – by having each worker either sign a document attesting to their status or provide proof of vaccination. Employers must demonstrate they have verified the vaccination status of workers who are unmasked and not practicing physical distancing. Verification methods can include:

  • Creating a verified worker vaccination log that contains the date of verification
  • Checking workers’ vaccination status each day as they enter the worksite
  • Marking workers’ badges or credentials to show they’re vaccinated

Acceptable documentation can include a CDC vaccination card, a photo of the card, documentation from a health care provider, a worker’s signed attestation or documentation from the state’s immunization information system. Evidence of the verification system must be made available to Washington L&I upon request.

 

According to a Washington L&I press release, guidelines that remain unchanged include:

  • Unvaccinated individuals should still wear a face covering in all public spaces.
  • Employers can still choose to require facemasks, with some exceptions, and must allow workers who would like to wear a mask to do so.
  • Employers can still require masks and physical distancing if a worker isn’t fully vaccinated or has an unknown vaccination status.
  • Employers cannot fire or discriminate against workers who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and are seeking accommodation to protect themselves from exposure to the virus.

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