Oregon OSHA Repeals Mask and Social Distancing Requirements—What This Means for Employers Moving Forward

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC

When Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (Oregon OSHA) adopted permanent rules related to COVID-19 back in May 2021, it did so with the caveat that it would repeal the rules once it determined that they were no longer necessary to address the pandemic. As of June 30, 2021, Oregon OSHA has formally removed the facial covering and physical distancing requirements for most workplaces under Oregon OSHA’s jurisdiction. There are exceptions for certain workplaces, such as health care, public transit, and airports. However, for the vast majority of employers in the state, the lifting of these rules means that they no longer must require employees and visitors to wear facial coverings or physically distance. Employers who have operations that fall under the jurisdiction of Federal OSHA or have operations in states other than Oregon should look to those jurisdictions’ rules with respect to facial coverings and physical distancing as those rules could differ from Oregon’s.

Prior to the lifting of these rules, employees and visitors were not required to wear a facial covering or physically distance only if they could first provide proof that they were fully vaccinated. This distinction based on vaccination status no longer applies and all employees and visitors can go without facial covering or physical distancing while in a workplace, regardless of vaccination status. Of course, if an employee or visitor chooses to continue wearing a facial covering, they should continue to be allowed to do so.

It is very important to note, however, that the facial covering and physical distancing requirements were only two parts of the comprehensive COVID-19 rules that Oregon OSHA adopted. All other requirements under those COVID-19 rules are still in place, and employers should continue to take steps to implement them or risk penalties. Examples of these requirements include optimization of ventilation, notification of a positive case in the workplace, and proper steps to take if an employee must quarantine. Therefore, employers will still need to monitor whether an employee has symptoms of COVID-19, and take necessary precautions to remove the employee from the workplace and to require the employee to stay home for the duration of the infectious period.

In addition, the lifting of the facial covering and physical distancing requirements does not preclude employers from putting their own facial covering and distancing requirements in place. In other words, employers might still require employees and visitors to wear facial coverings or distance if the employer chooses to do so. If an employer chooses to do this, it should keep in mind that the requirements must be consistent with public health guidelines and provide for accommodations for people with disabilities and with truly held religious beliefs.  

If you would like to read a copy of the changes to the rules by Oregon OSHA, they can be found here.

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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