What Cal / OSHA’s Vote Means for Masks and the Future of Workplaces
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – California workplace regulators report they may not be ready to line up with the state on June 15 by removing virtually all mask and social distancing requirements for people vaccinated.
The 4-3 vote by Cal / OSHA’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Council means that California’s existing labor standards will continue for now, and potentially well beyond June 15. These requirements will keep employees masked and physically away, regardless of their immunization status.
Moments later, the seven-member council unanimously passed the revised bylaws while a three-member subcommittee considered further changes.
Council members have indicated that they may not be able to adopt more flexible standards until July or August.
The revised Cal / OSHA standards would have relaxed some physical distancing requirements and established narrow circumstances in which vaccinated workers could throw away masks, such as when in a room made up entirely of vaccinated individuals.
At a marathon town hall meeting Thursday, supporters described the updated standards as a gradual relaxation of existing labor rules in California.
The standards, however, did not align with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to end virtually all mask and social distancing requirements on June 15 for those vaccinated, a point that has not been addressed. lost to the many speakers.
The rules would have kept employees at restaurants, stores and other businesses that communicate with the public indoors in masks, even if they were vaccinated. After June 15, many of the clients they serve will likely be unmasked.
“COVID no longer creates the risk that it was a year or six months ago,” Melissa Patack of the Motion Picture Association said during public testimony. “We have made a lot of progress in taming this virus and we ask Cal / OSHA not to place unreasonable job charges.”
The revised proposal would have allowed vaccinated workers to go outside without a mask, but they should have continued to wear masks indoors in situations where they might encounter an unvaccinated person.
Companies would have been required to keep documentation of the immunization status of employees. Many business groups asked about the documentation requirements during the meeting. The regulations also place new requirements on employers to purchase N95 masks, raising concerns that employers may have to “stockpile” respirators quickly.
Eric Berg, Cal / OSHA’s deputy chief of health, said the extension of the mask requirement was necessary to protect unvaccinated people and those with weakened immune systems.
“Without this requirement, unvaccinated workers would be at risk given the spread of more contagious variants of SARS-CoV-2,” he said.
He pointed to a study in North Carolina that predicted that if masks and physical distancing stopped, there would be hundreds of thousands of new infections over the next year, even with a high vaccination rate.
Employees indoors are at greater risk than the general public, he said, as they are exposed for long periods of time during their shift.
“So we cannot give up all prevention efforts now,” he said.