Question: Has Cal/OSHA adopted new workplace guidelines now that California has opened?

Answer: Yes, on June 17, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board approved revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS).  Though California has eased restrictions on COVID-19 safety measures and restrictions, employers still must follow the workplace safety requirements mandated by Cal/OSHA.

The revised ETS include some important changes to workplace rules and employers’ obligations, including:

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors, except during outbreaks, or where the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) requires mask wearing, such as in public transit, K-12 educational facilities, and health care settings.
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to be tested or excluded from work after close contact with someone who has COVID-19 unless they have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Masks are not required to be worn outside, including by those persons not vaccinated.
  • Physical distancing has been eliminated except where the employer determines there is a hazard or during a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Employees who are not vaccinated must wear face coverings when indoors and when participating in indoor COVID-19 screening.
  • Employees who are not vaccinated may request respirators, such as N95 masks, for voluntary use at no cost to them.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees who choose to wear face coverings.
  • Employers must maintain a record of employees’ vaccination status and keep that record confidential.  Cal/OSHA states that acceptable options for documentation include:
  • Employees can provide proof of vaccination (a vaccine card, its image, or a healthcare document showing vaccination status), and employers retain a copy.
  • Employees can self-attest to vaccination status, and employers maintain a record of who self-attests.

If employees decline to state whether they are vaccinated, employers must treat them as if they are unvaccinated.

Because of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, some counties are requiring or recommending people wear face coverings when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.  Employers are generally permitted to adopt more stringent workplace safety rules to protect employees and patrons.  It is a good idea to check your local health department’s website to see if it requires face coverings or more protective measures than Cal/OSHA’s ETS.

Though the revised ETS include many changes, some key requirements remain.  Employers must:

  • Have an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program.
  • Provide effective training and instruction to employees on the employer’s prevention plan and employee rights under the Emergency Temporary Standards.
  • Continue to provide face coverings to unvaccinated employees and make them available to vaccinated employees upon request.
  • Provide notice to public health departments of outbreaks.
  • Provide notice to employees of exposure to and close contacts with a COVID-19 case.
  • Offer COVID-19 testing to employees at no cost after potential exposures.
  • Comply with Cal/OSHA requirements for responding to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.
  • Comply with quarantine and exclusion pay requirements.
  • Follow prevention requirements for employer-provided housing and transportation.

To ensure compliance with the current revised temporary standards, Cal/OSHA has developed a revised COVID-19 Model Prevention Program to help employers developing or revising their written COVID-19 Prevention Programs.  Employers can access the revised model program by visiting