(This is an update to an article previously sent to our clients with new information)

As you’ve likely heard, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved the revised Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) on June 17, 2021.  Whew! Well not a total WHEW. There’s still work to be done, including updating your written COVID-19 Prevention Program and the masking matters.  We’re receiving lots of calls asking, “Can we remove the masks immediately?”  The short answer is – almost. Keep reading.

The most critical items for employers to consider in the short term:

  • If you want to allow fully vaccinated employees to drop their masks when working indoors then the new ETS requires employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees. (We have tools for this “documentation” on the HR Library for you to consider.)

When you are ready to “document” employees’ vaccination status so the masks of those fully vaccinated can be removed, here are the options outlined in Cal/OSHA’s FAQs:

The employer must record the vaccination status for any employee not wearing a face covering indoors and this record must be kept confidential. Acceptable options include:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and employer maintains a copy.
  • Employees provide proof of vaccination. The employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself.
  • Employees self-attest to vaccination status and employer maintains a record of who self-attests.

BTW, some of our clients are choosing to operate with everyone fully masked for a little longer until more specific direction arrives from Cal/OSHA on the nuances of the ETS.  And, yes, you can always require (or allow) all employees and visitors to wear masks in your workplace.  How long that will be tolerated is a subject for another day. As always, it’s your call on how much risk you wish to take in your business.

  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks. (An “outbreak” is three of more positive COVID cases within 14 days in the same work group.) Face coverings are additionally recommended outdoors for people who are not fully vaccinated if six feet of distance between people cannot be maintained.
  • Unvaccinated employees are to continue to wear masks when working indoors and in vehicles with a few exceptions:
    • When alone in a room or vehicle
    • When eating and drinking
    • When an accommodation is required (i.e., health or religious accommodation)
    • When job duties make the face covering infeasible or create a hazard
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators (N-95 type masks are suggested) for voluntary use from their employer at no cost to the employee. 
  • Physical distancing requirements have been lifted in most circumstances – you can pull up the floor tape.

As a reminder, not all the state’s laws and original ETS created in the last 15 months will be deleted with the new ETS.  Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms must still be excluded from work, receive exclusion pay if they were exposed at work, and the return to work criteria is generally still 10 days. There are some new exceptions to these if the exposed employees are fully vaccinated. (OK, this is a risky whisper of an overview of many pages of rules – if you are our client please call us when you have a positive test.) 

Cal/OSHA published FAQs the day prior to the approval of the new ETS, and they are quite helpful.  That’s probably the first place we suggest you check out (it’s brief) unless you’re dying to read the 30 page ETS first.

We are uploading new docs on our website HR Library for you to use in the next several days. Included in those are:

  • A COVID-19 Vaccination Self-Certification form
  • A log for the Vaccination Status of Employees (if you choose not to keep a copy of each employee’s vaccination card)
  • A sample Vaccination Policy for those who wish to encourage vaccinations. (If you want to mandate vaccinations for your staff, we suggest you contact legal counsel.)
  • FAQs we’re hearing from our clients
  • A sample vaccination policy
  • Updated checklists and notifications when you have a Covid-19 case at work

And just in under our deadline: Cal/OHSA published an update to the COVID-19 Model Written Prevention Program. Check out the English version

As always, this is not to be considered legal advice.