OR-OSHA Repeals Face-Covering and Distancing Requirements for Most Employers

Stoel Rives - World of Employment
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Stoel Rives - World of Employment

Effective today, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OR-OSHA”) repealed the COVID-19 workplace safety rules that obligated most employers to require employees and visitors to wear face coverings and observe physical distancing rules in the workplace.  However, most of OR-OSHAs rules remain in effect and the repeal of the face-covering and distancing requirements does not apply to all workplaces.  Here is a summary of the most critical aspects of OR-OSHA’s modified rules:

Face Coverings and Physical Distancing.  Employers are no longer required to mandate that employees and visitors wear face coverings or observe physical distancing rules in the workplace, regardless of the employees’ or visitors’ vaccination status.  However, employers may choose to require face coverings and/or physical distancing (subject to employees’ rights to a reasonable accommodation under disability or religious discrimination laws) and must allow employees to wear face coverings if they choose to do so.  (Face-covering and distancing requirements continue to apply to healthcare employers, as described below.)

Cleaning and Sanitation Requirements.  Employers must continue to regularly clean or sanitize all common areas, high-touch surfaces, and shared equipment.  “Regularly” means at least every 24 hours when in use, except in situations where employees are only present on a “drop-in” basis or staffing is kept to a minimal level.  Employers must also continue to provide the supplies and time for employees who wish to do so to clean their workspace or hand-sanitize more frequently.

Infection Notification Protocols.  Employers must continue to notify employees of potential workplace COVID-19 exposure within 24 hours.  Employers must notify “exposed employees” (those who were within six feet of an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes) and “affected employees” (those who worked in the same facility or well-defined portion of the facility).  Employers can still rely on the model policy that OR-OSHA previously published.

Quarantine Work from Home/Post-Quarantine Right to Return to Work.  Employers must continue to allow employees who participate in quarantine or isolation for COVID-19 to work at home if “suitable” work is available and the employee’s condition does not prevent it.  In addition, employees who participate in quarantine or isolation must be notified in writing of their right to return to their job (assuming it remains available) when their quarantine or isolation period ends.

Special Rules for Healthcare Employers.  Healthcare employers must continue to require that all individuals in the workplace wear face coverings when six feet of distance cannot be maintained and when an employee shares a workspace that does not allow for 100 square feet per person of space.  The rules recognize exceptions to the face-covering requirement for, e.g., time spent eating, drinking, showering, or sleeping.  Likewise, health care employers must eliminate the need for employees to be within six feet of other individuals in fulfilling their job duties, unless they can demonstrate that it is not feasible to do so.

Industry-Specific Requirements.  The original OR-OSHA rules included a series of appendixes with rules specific to 13 different industries.  These rules have been repealed, with the exception of the following industries:  Transit Agencies, Veterinary Care, and Emergency Medical Services.

OR-OSHA’s decision to repeal aspects of its rules was expected, as it had announced in early June that it intended to repeal its face-covering and social-distancing requirements once 70 percent of eligible Oregonians had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  Similarly, on June 25, 2021, Governor Kate Brown released an Executive Order stating that effective today the state would lift is face-covering, capacity, and social-distancing guidelines.

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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