The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of California has recently approved an updated version of the state’s Emergency Temporary Standards regarding mask mandates for California workers.

On Thursday, June 3, OSHA proposed that California workers in indoor establishments are no longer required to wear face coverings, as long as they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. However, it is still recommended that workers in places of employment with high public engagement such as retail stores and restaurants should continue to wear masks, and the proposal suggests that employers may acquire N95 masks for staff upon request. Unvaccinated employees will still be required to wear masks while working indoors or while in vehicles.

The most recent changes proposed by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board removed language regarding Physical Distancing Requirements and align with CDC guidelines that vaccinated workers will not be required to wear face masks. Employers will need to verify the vaccination status of their employees as well and keep this information on file. Workers are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

On Friday, the California Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement regarding the proposed changes:

“We thank Governor Gavin Newsom for eliminating confusion and working to ensure the state re-opens on June 15th with consistent standards for all based on CDC and CDPH guidelines. We are pleased that Cal/OSHA has aligned their newest proposed regulations to CDC and CDPH by eliminating the requirement for vaccinated employees to wear masks in many workplaces. Further, we applaud Cal/OSHA’s common-sense clarification to end social distancing obligations as soon as the regulation goes into effect—instead of the previously proposed July 31st deadline for businesses. Employers are also grateful for clarification on N95s—that they must be provided upon request—and look forward to additional clarification on verifying vaccination status of employees. We urge the Cal/OSHA Standards Board to quickly adopt these recommendations and provide further clarification to employers so California can get back to business.”

The proposal received one crucial vote on June 3, and is advancing to be reviewed by the state Office of Administrative Law, which is expected to approve it. The Cal/OSHA Standards Board will vote on these revisions to the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) at their next meeting on June 17. The are expected to take effect immediately under an expected order from Gavin Newsom.

The June 17 revisions are as follows:

  • For all employees who are not fully vaccinated, employers shall provide face coverings and ensure they are worn when indoors or in vehicles.
  • Employers shall provide face coverings and ensure they are worn by employees when required by orders from the CDPH.
  • Upon request, employers must provide respirators, such as N95 masks, for voluntary use to unvaccinated employees who are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person.

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