Agency Delays COVID-19 Emergency Reg. Amendment Vote

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California credit unions and other employers will have to wait a little longer to know what is ultimately coming for the state's COVID-19 workplace emergency temporary standard (ETS).

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board was scheduled to vote on a new proposed text for the ETS on May 20. However, agency staff requested that the board not vote on the amendments in order to give the agency an opportunity to make it more consistent with recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

For context — on May 13, just one week before the board was set to vote — the CDC updated its guidance to allow fully vaccinated persons to go without masks in some settings. Around the same time, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced on May 17 that “California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings” starting June 15.

Pointing to these recent developments, Cal/OSHA stated that “it is important to revisit the proposed COVID-19 prevention emergency in light of this new guidance.” The agency also added: “The division (Cal/OSHA) will limit any potential changes to consideration of the recent guidance in order to make possible a targeted effective date of June 15, 2021.”

Next Steps
Though the Cal/OSHA Standards Board intends to vote on a new text at the June 3 emergency meeting, the text that will be voted upon remains unpublished at this time.  Assuming it is approved, it will go into effect state-wide before June 15, so employers need to be looking to get ahead of compliance issues as soon as possible.

There are expectations that the revised text will likely include all of the major features of the May 20 draft text that was to be considered at the standards board meeting, but with minimal changes to the face mask requirements.

This means California employers should stay focused on the May 20 text while keeping an eye open for small changes in the new text, which is expected to be released in the coming week. Chief among the issues in the May 20 text (which may persist in the upcoming revised text) that employers should watch out for include:

  • Lightened compliance requirements in some sections based on employee vaccination (which will require ambiguous “documentation” of vaccinated status).
  • New requirements to provide N95 respirators to unvaccinated workers in limited settings pre-July 31, and to all unvaccinated indoor employees after July 31.
  • Changes to testing and training obligations.
  • Slight loosening of disinfect and cleaning obligations to reflect new science regarding the rarity of surface-based transmission.

Looking Down the Road
So what can credit unions and other employers expect after the June 3 vote? You can read the rest of CalChamber’s latest update here (scroll down to “Looking Down the Road” and “N95 Respirator and Recordkeeping Concerns”) — which explains the situation fully.
(Adapted from the California Chamber of Commerce)

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