On June 3, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) revised the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) in response to workplaces reopening. Read on to learn more about the updated Cal/OSHA regulations that will affect California employers.

New Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Updates

As workplaces transition from work-from-home to in-person work, Cal/OSHA opted to revise the COVID-19 Prevention guidance, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newson to take immediate effect on June 17, 2021. The revised ETS not only aligns with CDC and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines but also with the end of the mask mandate and physical distancing requirements. Here are the main Cal/OSHA updates that California employers must closely review and follow:

Revised Definition of “Fully Vaccinated”

Update: As of 2023, this definition is no longer in effect.

According to the new Cal/OSHA updates, an employee is considered “fully vaccinated” when an employer has documented that the worker received either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose of the COVID vaccine. Documentation must be given to the employer at least 14 days prior to returning to work. Employees who do not provide documentation on their status must be treated as if they are unvaccinated. In addition, fully vaccinated employees who do not have COVID-19 symptoms no longer need to be excluded from the workplace after close contact with a carrier.

Face Covering Mandate

Update: Starting on April 3, 2023, the updated mask guidance will go into effect. This updated guidance will be consistent with the SMARTer Plan and focuses on helping Californians’ adaptation to the SarsCoV-2 virus in their daily lives.

Although the state of California has lifted the mask mandate, Cal/OSHA’s regulations require face coverings in specific situations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. For example, fully vaccinated employees without COVID symptoms do not need to wear face masks in an indoor setting wherein everyone is fully vaccinated and not displaying symptoms. However, if there is a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated employees in a room, all workers must wear face coverings. In an outdoor setting, fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings. Unvaccinated employees, on the other hand, must continue to wear face coverings in both indoor and outdoor places and when less than 6 feet away from another individual.

In addition, employers will be required to provide unvaccinated employees with approved respirators for voluntary use for working indoors or in a vehicle with others, upon request. They may also not retaliate against employees for wearing face coverings.

Physical Distancing Mandate

After July 31st, employers can eliminate physical distancing, partitions, and barriers for employees working both indoors and outdoors as long as N95s and other respirators are provided to unvaccinated employees for voluntary use. Keep in mind that physical distancing and barriers are not required only if the workplace does not experience an outbreak. Physical distancing requirements are limited during times of ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard). To learn more about how they proceed, check out the revisions to the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards.

COVID-19 Prevention Program

Employers are still required to have a written COVID-19 Prevention Program, as outlined in the past Cal/OSHA guidance; however, there have been some key changes made to the requirements. In the revised guideline, employers must review the CDPH’s Interim Guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments and provide COVID-19 prevention training. Keep in mind that COVID-19 prevention training must include information on the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 and protecting against transmission and serious illness.

Key Takeaways

As businesses reopen, California employers need to put the safety and health of their employees at the forefront of their reopenings. Employers should take time to review these new regulations and work to stay in compliance with the Cal/OSHA updates by promptly implementing them. If you need assistance in navigating masks, vaccines, and other COVID-19 related issues in the workplace, please contact Hackler Flynn and Associates.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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