Cal/OSHA Withdraws Pending Revisions to COVID-19 Standards

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

June 10, 2021

California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) announced on June 9 that it had voted to withdraw the revisions to Cal/OSHA's emergency temporary standards for COVID-19 prevention, which were adopted only six days earlier.

The withdrawn standards amended requirements for

  • Face coverings;
  • Physical distancing;
  • Written prevention programs;
  • Exclusion from the workplace following a close contact with a person with COVID-19; and
  • Prevention measures for employer-provided housing and transportation.

In general, the revisions loosened requirements for fully vaccinated workers, while retaining more stringent requirements for unvaccinated employees and workplaces with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers.

For example, under the withdrawn revisions, fully vaccinated workers in a room where everyone else was fully vaccinated and not showing symptoms of COVID-19 would not have been required to wear face coverings. However, if a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons were present in a room, all workers would have been required to continue wearing a face covering.

The revisions had been submitted to the state's Office of Administrative Law for review but had not yet taken effect.

Cal/OSHA stated that its action in withdrawing the revisions is intended to align with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which, among other things, no longer recommends face masks for fully vaccinated people in most situations. California's Department of Public Health (CDPH) also announced on June 9 that beginning June 15, masks will no longer be required for fully vaccinated individuals in most settings, in alignment with the CDC's stance.

Cal/OSHA now plans to review the CDC's new mask guidance and bring any recommended revisions to the OSHSB to be considered at a future meeting. In the meantime, the agency stated, protections adopted in November 2020 remain in effect. Requirements include:

  • An effective written COVID-19 prevention program;
  • Procedures for responding to workplace outbreaks of COVID-19; and
  • Infection prevention measures in employer-provided housing and transportation.