Revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Effective Today

June 18, 2021

Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board votes to adopt revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards; Governor Newsom signs executive order for immediate adoption

On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted 5-1 to adopt new revisions to Cal/OSHA's COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) following more than two hours of public comment. During the meeting, a number of business groups and individuals urged board members to go further and eliminate the COVID-19 ETS, while labor representatives and advocates expressed concern that it's too early to lighten worker protections.

According to Laura Stock, Director of LOHP at UC Berkeley and member of the Cal/OSHA Standards Board, "We can’t forget the disproportionate impact of this pandemic on certain populations: low wage workers, people of color, and immigrants, many of whom are essential workers who continue to work while others of us were able to safely shelter at home. The vaccination rate actually mirrors that disparity. I want to reflect that these workers not only dealt with higher rates of infection, but a lot more abuse and stress and violence at the hands of the general public when trying to enforce these precautions."

The lone 'no' vote, Stock continued on to share,“I have been very conflicted by the choices presented to us today. On the one hand, I really appreciate the measures that have been retained, and I completely support the idea that we need to recognize the impact of very effective vaccines on this pandemic and that people who are vaccinated are protected. So I do support those changes. On the other hand, I am disappointed in this revision and am concerned it actually goes too far in rolling back essential protections while the pandemic is still going on.”
Shortly after the revisions were adopted, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order enabling the revisions to take effect immediately, bypassing a standard 10-day review period by the Office of Administrative Law. As an emergency temporary standard, this re-adoption will be in effect for 210 days absent additional adoptions or revisions.
Cal/OSHA is updating its resources to assist employers in understanding their obligations required by the revised standards, and will be issuing an updated model COVID-19 Prevention Program in English and Spanish.
Primary revisions include, but are not limited to:
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear them. Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors.

  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.

  • Physical distancing requirements have been eliminated except where an employer determines there is a hazard for certain employees during major outbreaks.

  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.

Although face coverings are no longer required for fully vaccinated employees with documented vaccination status, employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face covering without fear of retaliation from employers.

Click here to read Cal/OSHA's FAQs on the update.