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Cal/OSHA Reverse Mask Rules in Workplace

 

Last updated 6/18/2021 at 3:18pm



A controversial mask regulation for the workplace has been withdrawn, as California's workplace regulators consider a rule that will align closely with Governor Gavin Newsom's promise that the state will fully reopen on June 15.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s revised rule was initially rejected, and would have allowed workers to forego masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That contrasts with the state’s broader plan to do away with virtually all masking and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people in concert with the latest recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The board’s decision to withdraw that rule before it goes into effect allows the board to consider changes at its June 17 meeting.

“After the confusion and lack of clarity on reopening guidelines at the Cal/OSHA hearing, the statewide business community must once again request the governor issue an Executive Order before June 15 to provide all employers with the consistency and certainty in guidelines,” Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, said in a statement. That, he said, “will be the catalyst for a full economic reopening and create a powerful incentive to get even more Californians vaccinated.”

The goal of the unanimous vote, is to change the workplace regulation, “so that it matches up with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health, so that we’re all on the same page. That’s what this is about, so we’re not out of step with everybody else," board chairman David Thomas said.

The reversal came after State Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón reiterated to board members at a scheduled special meeting that the state next week will end most masking rules for people who are vaccinated, while continuing to require face coverings for unvaccinated people in indoor public settings and businesses.

Exceptions where everyone must remain masked include public transit, indoor school classes, in health care and correctional facilities, and in places like homeless shelters and cooling centers. Individual businesses are also free to require everyone to remain masked under the general rules.

Helen Cleary, director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable, a coalition of large businesses with major California operations, was among numerous business representatives urging the board to conform its rule with public health requirements.

“Employers cannot plan with this high level of uncertainty,” she said. “We are disappointed and frustrated with the confusion, the process, the substance and the lack of leadership.”

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