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State board adopts Cal/OSHA’s revised emergency temporary standard on COVID-19

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Sacramento, CA — An updated version of California’s emergency temporary standard that requires employers to protect workers from COVID-19-related hazards has been adopted by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board.

Announced on June 4, the adopted changes to the regulations from California Division of Occupational Safety and Health – also known as Cal/OSHA – include phasing out physical distancing requirements, relaxing face covering requirements, and eliminating measures related to employer-provided housing and transportation for fully vaccinated workers. The revised ETS will go into effect no later than June 15, according to a press release from the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. Some provisions will go into effect July 31.

According to the Los Angeles Times, board approval came after a scheduled vote on May 20 was delayed when several board members expressed concern about rolling back protections, even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relaxed its recommendations.

Because of record-low COVID-19 case rates and more than 37 million vaccinations administered in the state as of June 4, stringent workplace restrictions are no longer necessary, the release states.

Employers can now eliminate physical distancing and partitions or barriers for workers in indoor settings and outdoor “mega events” if respirators are provided to unvaccinated employees for voluntary use. Where fully vaccinated and unvaccinated workers are together in a room, all will be required to wear a face covering. When outdoors, fully vaccinated workers without symptoms do not need to wear face coverings, but unvaccinated employees must wear one when within 6 feet of others.

 

Prevention measures that applied to housing and transportation provided by employers are no longer needed if all occupants are fully vaccinated. In addition, fully vaccinated workers who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be excluded from the workplace after a close contact.

The new standards are under review by the state’s Office of Administrative Law, which is expected to approve the changes within 10 calendar days of the board’s vote.

The release notes that the board could “further refine the regulations” in the future.

The original standards – adopted Nov. 30 – were scheduled to be in place until Oct. 2. These adjustments are the first updates to the temporary ETS.

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