Question:  The economy re-opens in less than a week.  Will the COVID-19 workplace guidelines expire when that happens?

Answer:     No.  For the time being, the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 workplace guidelines that were originally adopted in November of 2020 will remain in effect when California’s economy re-opens on June 15, 2021.

On June 3rd, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (the Standards Board) adopted a revised version of Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards.  These revised standards, which were expected to become effective on June 15, 2021, included key changes to the workplace guidelines with respect to masks, physical distancing, and excluding workers from the workplace.  For example, beginning on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, businesses could have allowed their workers to forego masks in a room as long as everyone in that room was vaccinated and asymptomatic.  Businesses would have also been able to end social distancing rules and remove partitions/barriers from the workplace as long as they provided respirators to unvaccinated employees for voluntary use.  Under these standards, employers would have been required to review updated guidance from public agencies and to update their written COVID-19 Prevention Programs to align their written programs with the revised standards.  None of these changes or requirements will go into effect on June 15, 2021.

After a special meeting on June 9th, the Standards Board voted to withdraw the revised standards that it had previously approved on June 3rd.  The purpose of the meeting was for the Standards Board to consider some additional revisions to the revised standards to make the updated mask guidance more consistent with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH).  The special meeting was attended by members of the public and included a public comment session that lasted over two and a half hours.  The Standards Board voted to withdraw the revised revisions in their entirety.  As a result, the current Cal/OSHA standards that were adopted in November of 2020 will remain in effect.  This means that when California moves “Beyond the Blueprint” and its economy re-opens on June 15, 2021, businesses should follow the same COVID-19 safety workplace rules that they have been following all along, until further notice.

As businesses are well-aware of by now, the November 2020 standards require employees to practice social distancing and generally wear masks at all times, with limited exceptions.  Also, under these standards businesses are required to exclude employees from the workplace if they test positive for COVID-19 or if they come into close contact with someone at work who tests positive for COVID-19.  The one exception is that fully vaccinated employees who are asymptomatic do not need to be excluded from the workplace because of a close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Businesses should expect the November 2020 standards to be revised in the near future.  In its latest news release, Cal/OSHA stated that the Standards Board could consider new revisions to the COVID-19 standards as early as June 17th.  Given Cal/OSHA’s impending revisions to its COVID-19 workplace standards, businesses should monitor Cal/OSHA’s webpage and be ready to act quickly once a new set of revised standards are approved.  To view the Cal/OSHA news releases on the updated standards, visit: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dirnews/link_page.html