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Cal/OSHA Votes To Let Vaccinated Employees Shed Face Masks In The Workplace

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, met Thursday for a highly anticipated update to rules for masks and distancing in the workplace.

Workers Return To Office As California Plans To Full Reopen
People wearing protective masks walk inside the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. California officials plan to fully reopen the economy on June 15, if the pandemic continues to abate, after driving down coronavirus case loads in the most populous U.S. state. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The agency, which regulates workplace safety, voted Thursday on a plan that would allow vaccinated workers to skip wearing a mask.

"I think if a business owner says, 'hey I want you guys to be vaccinated or continue to wear a mask' it kind of singles out the people that don't believe in vaccinations," said Scott Wood, a business owner in Orange County. "Now the spotlight is on you."

The rules would require employers to verify the vaccination status of workers before allowing them to work mask-less, but employees would be allowed to simply "self-attest" that they are vaccinated.

For those who are not vaccinated, Cal/OSHA will require employers to have N95 masks or respirators available for those who want one, or they can still wear their own face covering.

Earlier Thursday, local leaders anxiously awaited the decision from Cal/OSHA to move forward with workplace expectations.

"I'm not so worried about the actual guidance," Orange County CEO Frank Kim said Wednesday. "It's really managing any (human resources) issues that could surface."

Just moments after a Cal/OSHA regulatory panel approved changes in California workplace masking rules, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order allowing the new rules to take effect immediately, eliminating the usual 10-day administrative law review.

The new rules generally state:

    • Employers may allow vaccinated employees to work without face coverings indoors, but they must document workers' vaccination status. That documentation process allows workers to either show written proof of vaccination, such as a CDC vaccine card, or to "self-attest" that they are vaccinated without providing documentation.
    • Workers can decline to state if they are vaccinated or not. However, they will be treated as if they are unvaccinated.
    • Unvaccinated workers must wear masks indoors, unless alone in a room or vehicle. Employers must make approved respirators, such as an N95 mask, available for unvaccinated workers if they request them.
    • No face coverings are required outdoors unless there is an outbreak.
    • If there is a COVID outbreak, masks will be mandated for all workers indoors, and outdoors if six-foot physical distancing can't be maintained.
    • No physical distancing or barriers between workers are required, regardless of employees' vaccination status, although employers can re-evaluate the need if an outbreak occurs. Distancing and barriers will be mandated if a "major outbreak" of 20 or more cases occurs.
    • Fully vaccinated workers with no COVID symptoms do not need to be tested or quarantined after they are exposed to the virus.
    • Employees cannot face retaliation for wearing a mask, even if they are not required to do so.

"I meet clients all day long on the phone it's hard to breathe with the mask— it's a long time coming I'm glad it's here," said bank employee Sal Manzella.

"It makes sense," said parking employee John Tilli. "I mean sooner or later the state was gonna get better."

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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