Cal/OSHA says fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks in the workplace.
That’s the result of Cal/OSHA’s newly revised guidelines, which says fully vaccinated individuals can go maskless inside and outside the workplace.
Cal/OSHA approved the revision Thursday, just a few days after the state revised its masking guidelines.
Cal/OSHA’s board adopted new revisions to its Emergency Safety Order, aligning with the state’s new guidance on masking.
Unvaccinated individuals will still be required to wear masks indoors, according to the new Cal/OSHA order, yet all social distancing guidelines are dissolved for all employees. The new guidelines also require employers to provide face masks to unvaccinated individuals and ensure the coverings are worn properly.
With the new rules in place, employees can also self-attest their vaccination status to employers without having to provide physical proof of vaccination.
After the board’s approval, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order almost immediately, putting the new guidelines into effect.
The new revisions come after Cal/OSHA’s board faced weeks of scrutiny leading up to the reopening of California’s economy. Previously, the board of directors passed guidance requiring all workers — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks in the workplace if just one employee was not vaccinated. This prompted backlash from a number of residents, who called on the board to align with the state’s new guidance for masking and social distancing during the public comment period of Thursday’s meeting.
Still, despite this scrutiny, a number of other residents remained concerned that it may be soon to relinquish masking guidelines.
A few public commenters raised concerns about circulating variants during Thursday’s meeting, asking the board to consider maintaining the mask mandate.
Though residents appear divided over the way forward in the workplace, the new guidelines do provide employers the right to adopt or maintain restrictions that are stricter than those outlined in Cal/OSHA’s new order. Some employers may choose to retain the same restrictions and protocols that were previously implemented.
Meanwhile, some local officials are hopeful that the updated guidance will entice vaccinated employees to return to the workforce now that masks are optional.
Kristen Miller, the president and CEO of the South Coast Chamber of Commerce, said she is hopeful employers will embrace the ability to work in a more normal environment, which could in turn, increase the desire to return to work.
“Cal/OSHA guidance now aligns with general California guidelines, allowing for less confusion and more effectiveness around any mask mandates that remain in place,” Ms. Miller told the News-Press in an email. “Employees appreciate clear communication, transparency in expectations and thoughtful guidance from employers. The challenges employers face will be that they now have to manage added layers of compliance, including confirming vaccination status and supplying specific masks.”
“Our hope is that employees are eager to work in a more normal environment, which supports their desire to get back to work.”
Under the new guidelines, employers will be expected to take a leading role in enforcing masking for those who are not vaccinated.
While this could incentivize more employees to get their shot, Trevor Large, a managing partner at Fauver, Large, Archbald & Spray, said the new guidelines could put employers in the difficult position of constantly monitoring unvaccinated employees to make sure they are within guidelines.
“To a certain extent, (the new guidelines) force employers to become even more of a sort of mask police than they already were,” Mr. Large told the News-Press. “It’s easier for an employer if you have to tell everyone to wear masks because those are the rules and everyone has to follow it. But when 10 employers are wearing a mask and 20 are not, then you constantly have to be thinking, ‘OK, should that person be wearing a mask?’ ‘Have they told me whether they are vaccinated or not?’
“I think it creates headaches for employers and has some potential to impact the working environment amongst employees whether it creates two classes of people in the workplace.”
Ultimately, Mr. Large said he sees this as a way for the state to further incentivize the vaccine for unvaccinated folks.
“I think the idea behind this is to encourage everyone to get vaccinated because you can go back to work and not wear a mask and your life gets a little more normal than it was,” he told the News-Press. “I think that the clear message being sent by these guidelines is to get vaccinated.”