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Regional Interests

Cal/OSHA to Consider Rules Allowing Vaccinated Employees to Work Unmasked

The state agency responsible for creating safety rules for the workplace will meet on Thursday to consider adopting new guidelines around employee masking and social distancing.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board released its updated guidance late Friday, which, if approved, would do away with most requirements involving masks and physical distancing for fully vaccinated workers.

That are some exceptions, including locations like classrooms and mass transit, where masks would still be required for everyone, or in the event of outbreaks. General physical distancing requirements for workers would be dropped, except for certain workplaces during major outbreaks.

Additionally, under the updated guidelines, employers would be required to provide “clean and undamaged” face coverings — but not necessary N95 masks — for employees not fully vaccinated. The issue became a pain point for business groups who voiced concerns around the cost of supplies needed by healthcare professionals.

The updated rules are generally consistent with the broader guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health that will take effect Tuesday on the state’s big reopening day.

But there’s a caveat — even if passed on June 17, the new rules wouldn’t take effect until 10 days after due to the administrative law process.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’d consider stepping in and using his executive powers to expedite the order at a press conference on Friday.

“I’m very mindful of those gaps and we’ll address them appropriately,” he said.

Unless the governor acts, the current more restrictive worksite rules will remain in effect during that window. Under current rules, workers would have to wear masks unless every employee in a room is fully vaccinated.

—Julie Chang and The Associated Press

Copyright 2021 KQED