DECIPHERING CALIFORNIA’S NEW COVID WORKPLACE SAFETY STANDARDS
On June 3, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopted COVID-19 standards scheduled to go into effect following the end of California’s "Blueprint for a Safer Economy” color-coded tier system ending on June 15. The following information is taken from the June 3 adopted standards, which require administrative approval.
I’m fully vaccinated. Do I need to wear a mask?
If you’re working outdoors, no. You don’t have to wear a mask unless you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you’re working indoors, yes, you have to wear a mask. But there is one significant exception: You don’t have to wear a mask if everyone in a room is fully vaccinated and doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms. Click here for more information about this topic.
What about social distancing?
Social distancing is required if you work inside or at mega outdoor events (Defined as having 10,000 or more participants or spectators). However, the requirement ends July 31. After that, social distancing is not required, except during outbreaks.
In mixed groups, masks would still be required, but businesses would not have to impose social distancing if they provide N95 masks for the unvaccinated to use voluntarily.
I’m not fully vaccinated. What can I do?
You have to wear a mask, but there are a few exceptions, which also apply to those who are fully vaccinated:
How do these standards work with federal and state guidance?
The federal guidance says those who are fully vaccinated can go maskless indoors and outdoors. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted state and local workplace guidance can supersede the federal recommendation.
California plans to lift its mask mandate on June 15, but Cal/OSHA does have the authority to create separate rules for workplaces.
What else should I know about the standards?
Because the board’s rule only governs workplaces, customers won’t be affected. That means come June 15, when California expects to lift its mask mandate, customers can come in without face coverings. However, nothing prohibits a private employer from requiring everyone, including customers, to wear masks.
Could the rule change again?
The board voted on June 3 to convene a subcommittee to update the standard as quickly as possible. The next meeting is scheduled for June 17, followed by another on July 15 (although the board can convene an emergency meeting in between scheduled sessions). However, it could take until August to make any substantial change to the standards.
Will Governor Newsom step in?
Board members acknowledged Newsom can issue an executive order modifying the standards, which were backed by labor and heavily opposed by the business representatives. But speaking on June 4, Newsom said he looks forward to the board’s discussion and didn’t say whether he plans to make any changes on his own.