What you need to know about the new COVID regulations in California

July 2, 2021

The California OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) were updated (effective immediately) on June 17. The regulations relax the workplace safety standards considerably for vaccinated workers, including that they are no longer usually required to wear a face covering indoors. Social distancing requirements have also been reduced. However, the regulations make it apparent that employers must not become complacent about the health and safety risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At a Glance: What’s in the New COVID Regulations?

  • With some exceptions, employers may allow fully vaccinated workers to not wear face coverings indoors. There are a few things to consider here, however: 
    • Employers must document the fully vaccinated status before allowing the employee to not wear a mask. This documentation can include a copy of an employee’s proof of vaccination, a record of employees who have provided proof, and/or a record of employees who have self-attested to full vaccination status.
    • Employers do not need to ask employees about their vaccination status. Instead, you can outline that unless and until employees provide details of their vaccination status (or a medical exemption), they should continue to wear a face covering in the workplace. 
    • Employers may ask workers to wear a mask even if they provide evidence of their full vaccination status. You are not prevented from imposing stricter internal requirements. 
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated are still required to wear face coverings while indoors or in vehicles with another person. 
  • Physical distancing and barrier requirements have been removed (regardless of employee vaccination status), except where there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace. 

 

What is currently required of employers?

Under the current ETS, employers must: 

  • Maintain a written COVID-19 Prevention Program. 
  • Make COVID-19 testing available to employees during work hours at no cost. 
  • Continue to make face coverings available to all employees, regardless of their vaccination status. 
  • Evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency. 
  • Notify the relevant public health departments if there is an outbreak. 
  • Notify employees of potential exposure and close contacts. 

You should read the updated ETS here for full details regarding the updated requirements and current exceptions. You can find answers to FAQs about the updated ETS here

 

Steps to take towards compliance

Employers should: 

  • Review current COVID-19 safety protocols and determine what is appropriate for your workforce, bearing in mind that you may continue to require employees to wear a mask. 
  • Update your COVID-19 Prevention Program in line with the changes you make under the current ETS. 
  • Update COVID-19 safety training and resources to reflect the changes, particularly if internal requirements are relaxed for fully vaccinated workers. 

 

For more information about legal and compliance issues you may face as your workforce enters the next normal, download our Post Pandemic Handbook for Employers. 

Otherwise, if you need assistance navigating workplace health and safety standards as California reopens, reach out. We’re here to help!

Disclaimer

The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between CGL and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

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