Cal/OSHA Moves to Modify New COVID-19 Safety Requirements for Businesses

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After a brief period of uncertainty, it appears that California Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) will bring COVID-19 workplace mask regulations in line with federal and other state regulations that permit vaccinated individuals to go without masks in most indoor settings.

On Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted to withdraw revised COVID-19 workplace safety standards that had originally been approved earlier this month and were pending review by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). Instead, Cal/OSHA’s board opted to revise its COVID-19 workplace standards consistent with newly issued guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In particular, the new Cal/OSHA rules reflect CDPH guidance issued on June 9, 2021, and taking effect on June 15, which permits fully vaccinated individuals to forgo masks in most public places. CDC rules similarly do not require employees to wear masks indoors unless unvaccinated individuals are present.

The rescinded Cal/OSHA rules, adopted by the board on June 3, 2021, were significantly stricter than CDC and CDPH guidance and required employees to wear masks when indoors unless every person in the room was fully vaccinated and did not have COVID-19 symptoms. These earlier rules had drawn criticism from business leaders, including a request from the California Business Roundtable and others calling on Governor Newsom to issue an executive order bringing workplace COVID-19 regulations in line with CDC and CDPH guidance.

The revised Cal/OSHA rules will be considered by the Standards Board on June 17, 2021. Governor Newsom announced on June 14 that he will issue an Executive Order, putting any new Cal/OSHA rules adopted on June 17 into effect immediately. Without the Governor’s intervention, the new rules would not take effect until at least June 28. The current Cal/OSHA COVID-19 workplace standards remain in effect, and businesses must continue to comply with them until new rules are approved and effective.

Manatt will continue to monitor developments on these regulations going forward.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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