California labor regulators on Friday recommended the state meet the July 31 deadline for updating certain employer safety rules in the event of a pandemic instead of adopting the lifting of the mask and the physical distancing requirements by Gov. Gavin Newsom in mid-June in most social settings.
The revised rules that will be reviewed by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Council on Thursday have relatively little change from an earlier proposal that has drawn widespread criticism from businesses and farm groups.
Cal / OSHA staff withdrew their original proposal last week so they could take into account new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people can now ignore facial covers and distance themselves in virtually all situations.
California is postponing this recommendation to June 15 in social settings, and business groups were hoping workplace regulators would adopt the same date.
The timing of the Standard Council’s emergency hearing next week means the new regulation could take effect in mid-June, but several of the proposed revised rules regarding masking and physical distance still include a six-week date. late.
“We are disappointed that this new revised draft does not correspond to the governor’s opening on June 15 and that those vaccinated will have to continue to wear masks in the workplace,” said Rob Moutrie, policy advocate from the California Chamber of Commerce, in an email.
This wide-mask requirement could mean a shortage of the most effective N95 masks for healthcare workers and agricultural workers as the state enters what is expected to be another drought-induced wildfire season, said Moutrie and other reviews.
An exception to wearing a universal mask would be employees in a room where everyone is fully immunized.
The masking requirement “will force employers to track immunization status, stockpile N95 respirators, and create policies and procedures for two categories of people: vaccinated and unvaccinated,” said Helen Cleary, director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable, a coalition of big business.
California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board regulations apply in nearly all workplaces in the state, and its pandemic standards apply to all employees except those who work from home. or when there is a single employee who has no contact with other people.
The rules would remain in place early next year, even as coronavirus cases drop after a devastating winter peak and more people are vaccinated. The state’s infection rate remains below 1% and more than 17 million of the state’s 40 million people are fully vaccinated, health officials said on Friday.
“He still doesn’t say anything about vaccines, even though a substantial fraction of the population is now vaccinated,” said Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau. “We are going to have a regulation that does not really reflect the reality we are facing.”
Worker advocates have said that the fact that half of the population is not fully vaccinated means that precautions are still needed. Board members said last week they were keen to keep the revised workplace safety rules in place even after July 31 over fears of another outbreak or breakthrough due to viral mutations .
Little advocated lifting some of the safety restrictions when 80% of an employer’s workers are vaccinated instead of the 100% required under the proposed regulations. That plus the natural resistance acquired by those who contracted the virus and recovered means “you are at herd immunity at this point,” he said.
Under the proposed revision, until July 31, all employees working indoors or at outdoor events with more than 10,000 people should be separated by at least six feet, unless they are wear the most effective N95 masks, which must be provided by their employer. Certain restrictions on wearing a mask during transport would also be lifted on July 31.
As of July 31, employers would be required to provide N95 masks for voluntary use by employees working indoors or at outdoor mega events who are not fully vaccinated.
Staff have proposed revisions, including requiring that employees, in certain situations, be tested for the virus once a week instead of twice a week. They also made it clear that retailers, restaurateurs and others would only be responsible for their own employees, not members of the public who enter their establishment.