California employers still have to follow strict mask rules


As the state prepares to fully reopen on June 15, workplace regulators are taking a cautious stance to protect unvaccinated workers, saying masks can only come off in environments where someone is working alone or where everyone has been vaccinated.

The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division on Friday, citing underreported outbreaks in the workplace, proposed new rules that maintain the wearing of masks indoors in settings where some Workers are vaccinated and others are not, even as vaccination rates have skyrocketed. The proposal will be put to a vote at the June 3 meeting of the agency’s standards committee.

Different mask policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated people “would be impossible to enforce … consistently and consistently,” the agency said.

So, rather than allowing vaccinated employees to opt out, all employees should wear masks while inside if everyone’s status is unknown. The proposed rules are different for outdoor environments, where vaccinated workers can be unmasked but unvaccinated workers must continue to cover their faces when they cannot socially move away, according to the agency, known as Cal / OSHA.

Anyone who does not wear a mask for medical or other reasons – but is not vaccinated or tested weekly at company expense – should stay six feet from everyone. These social distancing rules would remain in effect until July 31.

The recommendation contrasts with a May 13 announcement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely enter many indoor environments, such as grocery stores and restaurants, without wearing a mask.

The new rules, if passed, could cause employers to require proof of vaccination. Then all those who are vaccinated would work in one area, while those who were not vaccinated would work in another area, wearing masks or taking some distance.

Under state rules, employers are not required to collect vaccine information from their employees, but counties can impose more stringent rules. For example, in preparation for reopening businesses and operations statewide next month, Santa Clara County announced last week that businesses would be required to determine the immunization status of their employees.

“What OSHA is saying is that because they can’t tell who is vaccinated and unvaccinated – and they can’t be assured that enforcement would take place – so they’re going to assume that everyone is potentially contagious, and you’re going to protect the unvaccinated by forcing everyone to wear masks and socially distance themselves, ”said Dr. John Swartzberg, Emeritus Clinical Professor of Infectious Diseases with the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program .

With this step, “OSHA is making everyone pay the price for people who choose not to be vaccinated,” he said.

The conservation approach will also protect the small number of people who cannot get vaccinated due to allergies or who have been vaccinated but are immunocompromised and not fully protected, he added.

“But OSHA’s job is to protect employees,” he said. “This will provide greater protection for workers inside than if they had an approach where they simply said ‘only unvaccinated people will wear masks’, without law enforcement.”

While vaccinations reduce transmission of COVID-19, many California workers are not fully vaccinated and risk potential exposure to infection at work, according to Cal / OSHA. The agency pointed out that clusters and epidemics have occurred in workplaces statewide, including in food manufacturing, farming operations and warehouses.

Cal / OSHA pointed out that data on the number of cases of COVID-19 infection and the number of deaths attributable to exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace is not currently available, however, the figures are likely substantial, especially among essential workers, due to workers. “Exposure to people outside of one’s household, as well as the close proximity between people required in certain industries.

Stephen Knight, of the workers’ advocacy group based at Oakland WorkSafe, appreciated the more cautious approach.

“All workers, vaccinated or not, deserve workplace protection and the tools to exercise their rights,” he said. “The language seems better suited to actual workplace conditions than the general relaxation recently proposed by the federal CDC.”

The agency was set to adopt new rules on May 21, but decided to postpone its decision to reconsider federal regulations after a tense meeting in which business lobbyists argued that the hiding and hiding regulations Distancing should be relaxed due to rising vaccination rates and falling cases, and worker advocates have warned of the potential risks if security warrants are lifted too early.

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