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Regional Interests

Oregon workplaces may soon operate with relaxed COVID-19 safety requirements

The Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration plans to relax the state’s COVID-19 workplace rules.

On Friday Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced plans to lift mask mandates and physical distancing requirements in most settings once 70% of adults in Oregon have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. She and her advisers have said they expect that to happen by June 21.

Since the initial lockdown in 2020, many workplaces have remained closed or operated with limited staffing. Others have changed workplace practices to accommodate Oregon OSHA’s ever-shifting COVID-19 guidance. And others have chosen to challenge and violate that guidance, while protests against COVID-19 restrictions spread across the state. Oregon OSHA received record levels of complaints when the pandemic first began.

Following Friday’s announcement, Brown contacted OSHA and requested it lift its workplace masking and distancing requirements once the benchmark is reached, and review other policies. They were most recently updated on May 4.

Oregon OSHA said Monday it will be reviewing COVID-19 workplace regulations and determining if they should also be lifted. That includes regulations on businesses that provide employee housing, employee notifications when a workplace COVID-19 exposure has occurred, the posting of COVID-19 safety signs, and requirements that employers cover the cost of workplace-related COVID-19 testing. Other rules that are up for review target specific types of businesses — like wine and beer tastings at brewpubs and distilleries.

“Because it is not possible to assign a specific time for that decision, Oregon OSHA will consult with the Oregon OSHA partnership committee, the Oregon Health Authority, the two infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, and other stakeholders,” the agency’s latest COVID-19 policy says. Oregon OSHA initially said the policy review would begin in July at the latest, but now plans to hold their initial meeting the week of June 14.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting