By Daniel R. BirnbaumPatrick D. JoyceAdam R. YoungCoby Turner, and Elizabeth M. Levy

Seyfarth Synopsis: Following its June 3, 2021 meeting, when the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted to approve Cal/OSHA’s controversial revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), the Board convened an emergency meeting on June 9, 2021, where it voted unanimously to pull back the revisions. On June 11, 2021, the Board released a proposed do-over —the third attempt at an ETS—to align with recent CDPH and CDC guidance, particularly as it relates to vaccinated individuals.

You Make Choices And You Don’t Look Back—Unless You’re Cal/OSHA

As we have previously recounted, the journey of the Cal/OSHA ETS has taken on the scope of an action movie with its constant twists and turns. Standing alone from other governmental agencies, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted to approve highly controversial revisions to the COVID-19 ETS on June 3, 2021, which clashed with CDC guidanceCDPH guidance, and widely publicized California state rules which became effective June 15, 2021 (California’s “reopening”), all of which eliminate capacity restrictions, social distancing and permit fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks in most situations.

In response to the near universal backlash from the both the regulated community and affected employees, the Board noticed an emergency meeting for June 9, 2021, which ultimately lasted four and one-half hours, during which it was widely criticized for deviating from the guidance of every other public health authority. As a result, the Board voted unanimously to pull back the revised ETS, and sent the draft ETS back to Cal/OSHA for a re-write.

Cal/OSHA issued its revised version of the proposed ETS to more closely align with CDC and CDPH on face covering restrictions, and it has added other new requirements and obligations for employers.

Will There Be Another Sequel?

Assuming there are no further unanticipated actions by the Board—a big assumption given the path of the ETS so far—the Board is expected to vote on this forthcoming version at its June 17, 2021, meeting. Barring an Executive Order from the Governor or unanticipated actions by the Board, the relaxation of the November 2020 ETS requirements is expected to become effective on about June 28, 2021. There has been some chatter from the Governor’s office that this may happen, but we wouldn’t recommend leading off in the race just yet.

Until then, employers must continue to follow the current (“old”) version of the rules, which require all employees regardless of vaccination status to remain socially distanced and wear masks at nearly all times—even though on June 15, 2021, the vaccinated general public will not be required to wear masks in most situations.

In the meantime, employers can look down the road to the new ETS that is likely around the corner.

Life Is Simple With Some Of The New Proposed ETS Provisions

Cal/OSHA has apparently (finally) heard the masses and attempted to align the ETS closer to CDC, CDPH, and California state regulations in many respects.

For fully vaccinated employees:

  • As we previously predicted, the most recent revisions to the ETS would allow fully vaccinated employees in California to remove their face coverings, even in the company of unvaccinated individuals.
    • But note that in an outbreak setting, even fully vaccinated individuals must wear face coverings if indoors, or outdoors and not physically distanced, and any fully vaccinated individuals actually conducting COVID-19 screenings must also wear a face covering.
  • Fully vaccinated employees (or those who had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and have since recovered) who have close contact with a COVID-19 case would not need to be excluded from the workplace as long as they remain asymptomatic.
  • Employers would not need to provide testing to asymptomatic individuals who have been fully vaccinated (or those recovered from COVID-19 in the prior 90 days), even if those individuals are part of an exposed group in an outbreak setting.
    • However, employers must still provide testing at no cost in a “major outbreak” setting, regardless of vaccination or immunity status.

Those employees who have not provided documentation of their fully vaccinated status need to be treated as if they are unvaccinated for all purposes in the proposed ETS.

For those employees:

  • They still must wear a face covering when indoors or in vehicles with others.
  • Cal/OSHA still “recommends” that these individuals continue to wear a face covering outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Employees with close contact to a COVID-19 case would be permitted to return to work within 10 days if they do not develop symptoms, and certain essential critical infrastructure employees would be permitted to return after seven days during critical staffing shortages.

For everyone:

  • The proposed ETS would completely remove requirements for physical distancing, except for in major outbreak settings.
  • Employers must provide free testing during paid working time to all close contacts of a COVID-19 case in the workplace except those who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, and individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days and are asymptomatic.
  • For people who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case and have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, they may be allowed to return to work earlier than previously allowed if they (1) have a negative PCR test taken after becoming symptomatic, (2) at least 10 days have passed since the last known close contact, and (3) they have been symptom-free for at least 24-hours without the use of medication.
  • Employers must provide face coverings at no cost to any employee upon request only, regardless of vaccination status.
  • The requirement to install cleanable solid partitions where physical distancing cannot be maintained has been eliminated in most circumstances—it remains a suggested potential safety measure in outbreak settings, and a required safety measure in major outbreak settings.

What Else Is Covered In The Sequel?

Now, when employers are determining vaccination status, the proposed revisions make it clear that the ETS would permit “fully vaccinated” status to include employees where the employer has documentation that the individual has received a vaccine that meets FDA approval or has emergency use authorization and, if they are vaccinated outside the United States, a vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization. This revision considerably simplifies compliance issues for companies with international workforces.

In addition, the proposed revisions make it clear that the ETS would not apply to employees who are teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice, which is not under the control of the employer. So if your employees are working at Toretto’s Market or a coffee shop on their laptops—if you give them the freedom to choose their work location, the proposed ETS would not apply to them.

The proposed revised ETS also clarifies that employers need only report COVID-19 cases to their local health department and no longer need to report to the Division.

And, in a significant change for employers who have had widespread outbreaks, the definition of the end of “major outbreak” status (and thus associated testing provisions) would be changed to no longer require zero COVID-19 cases for a 14-day period—employers would just need to drop to fewer than three cases in a 14-day period.

In Many Ways, Still A Buster

Despite making long sought after revisions, Cal/OSHA has missed the mark in other areas of the proposed revisions to the ETS, which remain considerable burdens on employers.

Documentation of Vaccination Status

For instance, as noted above, the proposed revisions would require employers to “document” the vaccination status of employees. The Board indicated at the emergency meeting that it would elaborate on what documentation would be required, but missed by a mile by not including the promised explanation in the proposed revisions.

As we have seen in Santa Clara County, employers there must collect at least self-certification of vaccination status on forms from employees. At this time, it appears unlikely that self-attestation regarding vaccination status will be acceptable under the ETS, meaning that some sort of documentation (although it is still not clear what) will be required.

Exclusion Pay Requirements

Employees who are excluded from work under the provisions in the proposed ETS are entitled to earnings and benefits continuation unless they are receiving disability payments, workers’ compensation payments, or temporary disability payments, or if the employer can prove the close contact is not work related.

But the pay requirements in this version of the proposed ETS have changed. Employees no longer need to be “able and available to work” to be entitled to exclusion pay. And, if the employer decides an exception to earnings continuation applies, the employer must inform the employee of the denial and the applicable exception.

Required Respiratory Protection

The newly proposed ETS still would include a controversial requirement that employers provide respiratory protection of a correct size for voluntary use to all unvaccinated employees—but the proposed requirement has been altered slightly so that respiratory protection now must be provided only upon employee request. This alteration addresses the concerns of many employers about being forced to stockpile respiratory protection unnecessarily, which could hamper the supply for first responders and during California’s upcoming wildfire season.

Employers must also encourage respiratory protection use amongst unvaccinated employees, and train any employees who request respiratory protection on how to properly wear the respiratory protection provided, how to perform a seal check, and on how facial hair may interfere with a seal.

Further, employers must provide respiratory protection for voluntary use to all employees in an exposed group, regardless of vaccination status, if the employer is in a “major outbreak” status, i.e., having 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an exposed group during a 30-day period.

Face Coverings

Permissible face coverings under the proposed ETS would include only a surgical mask, a medical procedure mask, a respirator worn voluntarily, or a fabric material mask of at least two layers of material. This means many of the normal fabric masks employees have been using will no longer be permissible.

Employers also must “ensure” that the face coverings are worn over the nose and mouth by unvaccinated individuals.

Testing

Employers would be required to make COVID-19 testing available at no cost to employees with COVID-19 symptoms who are not fully vaccinated, during the employees’ paid time—this is regardless of whether there was any potential work-related exposure to COVID-19.

Employer Provided Transportation

The proposed ETS expands the restrictions in employer-provided transportation to cover a much broader array of workplace settings. While it previously applied only in situations traveling to and from work, the proposed ETS now covers employer-provided transportation to and from different jobsites, delivery sites, buildings, stores, facilities, or fields.

Employers now must, to the extent feasible, assign employees with shared vehicles to distinct groups and keep those groups separate.

The saving grace is that this expanded section does not apply where all employees are fully vaccinated.

Notification and Training Requirements

All employees exposed to a COVID-19 case in the workplace must be notified in writing of potential exposure, in a form readily understandable by the employees. This notice may be by personal service, email, or text message, and if the employer knows the employee has limited literacy, then the employer may give oral notice in a language understandable by the employee.

Employee training requirements must include information on:

    • legally mandated sick and vaccination leave, if applicable,
    • the employer’s policies for providing respirators and how to properly use them,
    • the fact that COVID-19 is an airborne disease and N95s and more protective respirators protect the users from airborne disease while face coverings primarily protect people around the user,
    • how to access COVID-19 testing and vaccination, and the fact that vaccination is effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission, serious illness, and death,
    • the conditions under which face coverings must be worn at the workplace, and that they are recommended outdoors for people who are not fully vaccinated if physical distancing cannot be maintained, and
    • employees’ rights to request free face coverings and wear face coverings at work, regardless of vaccination status, without retaliation.

Workplace Solutions

As always, don’t jump the starting line as developments on the workplace safety front in California continue to occur fast and furious. With new requirements continually being issued, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the authors of this post or a member of our Workplace Safety team with any questions.

By Benjamin D. BriggsCoby TurnerElizabeth M. LevyIlana MoradyPatrick D. Joyce, Daniel R. Birnbaum, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: Less than a week after the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted to approve Cal/OSHA’s controversial revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), it convened an emergency meeting on June 9, 2021, after which it voted unanimously to pull back the revision. The Board will now send the ETS back for another do-over, to align a new revision with the CDPH and CDC guidance, particularly as it relates to vaccinated individuals.

Background

The story of the Cal/OSHA ETS becomes more convoluted by the day. Those of you following from home will recall that one week ago, on June 3, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted to approve a highly controversial revision to the COVID-19 ETS.

But that approved revision did not align with existing CDC guidance, or the recently updated CDPH guidance and California state rules slated to become effective June 15, 2021 (California’s “reopening”), which will permit fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks in most situations. Let’s just say the regulated community was not pleased with the Board’s revision.

Fast forward to June 8, 2021, when the Board noticed an emergency meeting to be held on June 9, 2021. That meeting, attended by representatives of  widely ranging interests—employers, employees, industry groups, organized labor groups, healthcare professionals, and members of the public at large—lasted 4.5 hours. Virtually every comment criticized the Board for deviating from the guidance of public health authorities.

At the end of the meeting, the Board voted unanimously to pull back the revised ETS, which would have gone into effect on or about June 13, 2021, and sent the ETS back for re-write. We expect yet another revision in the coming days—one aligning more closely the with CDC and CDPH. The Board is expected to vote on this forthcoming version at its June 17, 2021 meeting. If approved, the revision would go into effect around June 28, 2021.

What Does This Mean?

For now, employers must continue to follow the current (“old”) version of the November 2020 ETS, which requires all employees regardless of vaccination status to remain socially distanced and wear masks at nearly all times. We previously blogged about the detailed requirements of the ETS here.

In the near future, sometime after the June 17, 2021 meeting (with the caveat that one can really never know with Cal/OSHA), we expect that fully vaccinated employees in California will not need to wear a mask or socially distance, even if in the company of unvaccinated individuals. This relaxation of the current requirements is expected to become effective on about June 28, 2021.

Other provisions of Cal/OSHA’s controversial revised ETS, however, are expected to stick. One is the requirement that employers provide respiratory protection for voluntary use to all unvaccinated employees.

Keep in mind that the California “reopening” remains on target for June 15, 2021. This means that, unless Cal/OSHA announces it will be exercising enforcement discretion, all employees will still need to be in masks and distanced until the new revision becomes effective, even though the vaccinated general public won’t be required to wear them.

What Else Should I Know?

At the June 9 meeting, the Board indicated that Cal/OSHA should clarify the documentation requirement around vaccination status as proposed in the most recent revised ETS. At this time, it appears unlikely that self-attestation regarding vaccination status will be acceptable, meaning that some sort of documentation (although it is not clear what) will be required.

Workplace Solutions

Stay tuned for the rapid fire developments on the workplace safety front in California. If you are facing difficult questions from your employees in this space that you need help answering, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the authors of this post or a member of our Workplace Safety team.

By Brent I. ClarkJames L. Curtis, Benjamin D. Briggs, Mark A. Lies, IIAdam R. YoungA. Scott Hecker, Ilana MoradyPatrick D. Joyce, Daniel R. Birnbaum, Matthew A. Sloan, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth SynopsisOn June 9, 2021, at the tail end of prepared remarks before the House Education and Labor Committee, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh announced – not with a bang, but with a whimper – that OSHA would publish its long-anticipated COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) on June 10, and that the ETS would focus only on the health care industry.

When OSHA sent the ETS to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on April 26, 2021 (more than a month after President Biden’s initial deadline for doing so), observers anticipated a broad rule, covering the full breadth of OSHA’s jurisdiction. Focusing solely on health care, OSHA’s June 10 ETS likely disappoints unions and worker advocates who continued to champion the ETS well after science – and CDC guidance – pointed to a lack of necessity. In addition to the actual ETS, OSHA has developed supplemental ETS-related resources, including a helpful flowchart to determine coverage.

ETS Requirements

For those employers who fall into covered categories, including hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home health care workers; and employees in ambulatory care settings where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated, the ETS requires:

  • Developing and implementing a COVID-19 plan, including worksite-specific hazard assessments, to mitigate virus spread;
  • Limiting and monitoring entry points, and screening and triaging all clients, patients, residents, delivery people and other visitors, and other non-employees entering the setting;
  • Developing and implementing policies and procedures to adhere to Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions in accordance with CDC’s “Guidelines for Isolation Precautions”;
  • Providing and ensuring employees wear facemasks, with certain exceptions. Under certain circumstances, N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment must be provided by the employer to employees. Where N95s are used, but not required, employers must follow the new mini respiratory protection program included as 29 CFR 1910.504 (yes, it’s actually called a “mini respiratory protection program”);
  • Following specific protocols when an aerosol-generating procedure is performed on a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19;
  • Physical distancing, i.e., ensuring six feet of distance between workers where feasible. Where physical distance is not feasible, the employer must ensure that the employee is as far apart from all other people as feasible, and must install barriers in fixed work locations outside of direct-care areas;
  • Cleaning and disinfection;
  • Ventilation;
  • Employee screening and notification of COVID-19 exposure;
  • Training;
  • Recordkeeping; and
  • Reporting COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations.

The standard also requires covered employees to provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from side effects. Employees who have coronavirus or who may be contagious must work remotely or be separated from others, or they must be provided paid time off, up to $1,400 per week.

Employers must advise employees that employees cannot be retaliated against for exercising rights under the ETS, and employers must implement the ETS with no cost to employees.

In well-defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation that any person will be present with suspected or confirmed coronavirus, the ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from its masking, distancing, and barrier provisions.

Updated Guidance for Non-Health Care Sectors

OSHA’s revised guidance covering non-health care workplaces focuses its risk mitigation protocols on unvaccinated workers. Referring to CDC guidance, OSHA notes that fully vaccinated individuals do not need not take all of the same precautions that unvaccinated people should. Further, OSHA advises that most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure, unless stricter state or local laws apply.

OSHA appears to have finally reached the conclusion that it cannot demonstrate the need and gravity necessary to warrant an all-industry ETS. But employers should expect the updated guidance to serve as fodder for additional citations under OSHA’s COVID-19 National Emphasis Program, including pursuant to the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act. Maintaining required protocols and following all applicable guidance – as well as any stricter state and local rules – remains paramount in the enforcement arena.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Lorie E. AlmonMeredith-Anne BergerAnne R. Dana, and Glenn J. Smith

Seyfarth Synopsis: With no fanfare or effective means of publication, New York adopted an emergency regulation, effective May 26, 2021, implementing the latest CDC guidance on face coverings, with certain key exceptions. Notably, face coverings are required for unvaccinated food service workers at all times, regardless of proximity from others. While employers have been expecting revised industry-specific guidance to incorporate the new social distancing and mask mandates, instead, on June 7, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced that upon reaching a 70% vaccination rate for adults state-wide, most restrictions currently in place will be lifted.

New York State recently published emergency regulations (66-3.1—66-3.5) regarding mandatory face coverings in the wake of COVID-19 and the State’s adoption of the CDC’s recent guidance, which we previously discussed here, allowing fully vaccinated individuals to go without a face covering under most circumstances. They also address non-essential gatherings and penalties.

The emergency regulations provide, in sum:

  • Individuals over age two and who are medically able must wear a face covering in a public place when not maintaining a social distance, unless the individual is fully vaccinated (i.e., 2+ weeks after the final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine), in which case a face covering is not required. Exceptions to this rule include: a pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade school, public transit, homeless shelter, correctional facility, nursing home, health care setting, or other setting where mask use is otherwise required by federal or state law or regulation.
  • Employees in any workplace who are not fully vaccinated must wear a face covering when “in direct contact with customers or members of the public, or when unable to maintain social distance.” Notably, employees of food service establishments who are not fully vaccinated must wear a face covering at all times while at the workplace. Businesses must provide such face coverings at no cost to employees.
  • Businesses and building owners may require all individuals who enter their premises to wear a face covering, and are entitled to deny admittance to any person who does not comply. Note, this particular provision is subject to conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, New York State, and New York City Human Rights Laws.
  • Businesses cannot deny services or discriminate against any individual on the basis that they choose to wear a mask for purposes of protection against COVID-19, but which is not designed to otherwise obscure the identity of the individual.
  • Non-essential gatherings are prohibited under certain circumstances, i.e., over capacity limitations provided by relevant Executive Orders or on sidewalks, streets or other public property within 100 feet of a food service establishment or a business holding a liquor license. Any non-essential gatherings must comply with social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection guidelines. This prohibition does not apply to essential businesses as defined by Empire State Development.
  • Fines for violation of the emergency regulations are $1,000 per violation, except for violating capacity limits on non-essential gatherings or for a business or individual who promotes a non-essential gathering, which has a maximum fine of $15,000.

While it was expected that New York’s industry-specific guidance would be updated to address the new mask and social distancing rules, it now appears that is unlikely. Instead, during a press conference on June 7, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced that “most remaining COVID restrictions will be lifted when 70% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.” At the time of the announcement, the percentage was at 68.6%.

The announcement included the following:

  • “The State’s New York Forward industry specific guidelines — including capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact information for tracing — will become optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other commercial settings. Large-scale event venues, pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare settings must continue to follow the State’s guidelines until more New Yorkers are vaccinated.”
  • Unvaccinated individuals will still be responsible for maintaining proper social distancing of six feet and wearing a mask. In addition, large-scale event venues, Pre-K to 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings will be exempt from the restriction lift, and New York State’s existing COVID-19 health protocols will remain in effect. (Notably, the requirement that unvaccinated food service workers continue to mask at all times was not mentioned as a restriction that will remain in place, but this may have been an oversight).

It is also unclear whether the emergency regulations cited above are intended to work in tandem with the lifting of the industry-specific guidance upon reaching the 70% threshold, or will once again be amended in accordance with same. This likely depends on whether the rollback of the industry-specific guidance is effectuated through a broader lifting of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration.

Seyfarth will continue to track what has become a rather confusing lifting of restrictions across New York. Please contact your Seyfarth attorney with any questions you may have.

By James L. CurtisAdam R. Young, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) added a section to its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding respirators and particle size, explaining how N95 respirators effectively protect wearers from coronavirus exposure.

Respirators and Particle Size

OSHA’s addition to its COVID-19 FAQs regarding respirators and particle size posits, “will an N95 respirator protect the wearer from the virus that causes COVID-19?” OSHA answers that an N95 respirator is effective in protecting workers from the virus that causes COVID-19.

“N95” refers to a class of respirator filter that removes at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles from the air. Throughout the pandemic, some have mistakenly argued that because the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is around 0.1 microns in size, wearing an N95 respirator will not protect against such a small virus. According to OSHA, “that mistaken claim appears to result from a misunderstanding of how respirators work.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has conducted various tests and found that, due to the dynamics involved in filtration, an N95 respirator is actually “more effective at filtering particles that are smaller or larger than 0.3 microns in size.” Accordingly, the N95 respirator filter is very effective at protecting people from the virus causing COVID-19.

It is important for employers and workers to remember that a respirator only provides the expected protection when used correctly. Respirators, when required by an employer, must be used as part of a comprehensive, written respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard. As part of such a program, employees must be properly fit tested for the make, style, and size of N95 they will be using, must receive training on respirator use and maintenance, and must don and doff the respirator correctly.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Coby TurnerPatrick D. JoyceIlana MoradyAdam R. Young, and Elizabeth M. Levy

Seyfarth Synopsis: The California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) was supposed to consider changes to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on May 20, 2021. But after the CDC published a May 13, 2021 guidance saying that fully vaccinated individuals could resume pre-pandemic activities without masks, Cal/OSHA asked the OSHSB to delay its consideration of the proposed ETS revisions until Cal/OSHA could “revisit the proposed COVID-19 prevention emergency regulation in light of this new guidance.” Cal/OSHA has now published its new draft regulations, which appear to be more strict than the prior proposal. The OSHSB will consider the new proposal at its June 3, 2021, meeting.

Background

In the fast-paced and ever-changing environment of COVID-19 regulation, the story of Cal/OSHA’s ETS is becoming more and more convoluted. If you read our May 12, 2021, blog, you know that earlier this month Cal/OSHA published proposed revisions to its ETS. The proposed revisions were a significant move in the right direction, relaxing some of the more burdensome aspects of the ETS in light of the improving state of the pandemic. The OSHSB was scheduled to consider and vote upon the proposed revisions at its May 20, 2021 meeting.

But then, on the eve of the meeting, Cal/OSHA submitted a memorandum to the OSHSB asking that consideration of the proposed revisions be deferred. Cal/OSHA cited the CDC’s May 13, 2021 guidance allowing fully vaccinated individuals to forego masks in most situations, as well as the May 20, 2021 California Health & Human Services announcement that California plans to implement the updated CDC guidance starting June 15, 2021. The memorandum explained, “The Division is thus requesting that the Board not vote to approve the current proposal before it, and instead allow us to present a new proposal at a future meeting. The Division will limit any potential changes to consideration of the recent guidance, in order to make possible a targeted effective date of June 15, 2021.”

The new proposal has now been published (and here is a redline to the prior proposed changes), and the OSHSB is scheduled to consider it, and vote, at the upcoming June 3, 2021 meeting.

What Has Changed from the May 20 Proposal?

The revised proposal misses many of the most sought-after updates related to mask usage, and in fact appears stricter on many measures than the last proposal, despite relaxed measures recommended by the CDC. Changes from the earlier proposal include:

  • Employers cannot immediately eliminate physical distancing requirements for fully vaccinated worksites—they must keep these measures in place until at least July 31, 2021.
  • Employers would be immediately required to offer free COVID-19 testing to unvaccinated symptomatic workers during paid working time, even if there is no indication that the exposure was work related (the previous iteration did not start this requirement until July 31, 2021).
  • Fully vaccinated workers who test positive for COVID-19 would still have to be excluded from work for 10 days after the positive test, even if they are asymptomatic.
  • After July 31, 2021, employers would have to provide respirators to all employees who are not fully vaccinated for voluntary use.
  • Employers would not be able to eliminate cleanable solid partitions in fully vaccinated worksites.

The revisions also include provisions aimed at maintaining mitigation measures for employees at “outdoor mega events,” which is an outdoor event with over 10,000 participants or spectators. Finally, OSHSB added a provision requiring employers to notify employee of the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine, including that the vaccine has been effective at preventing serious illness or death (in addition to the information required in the prior proposal related to testing accessibility and proper respirator use).

The revisions do not require blanket vaccine-verification, of employees or third parties, along the lines of the onerous requirements we have seen in Oregon and Santa Clara, as many employers thought may be included.

But to be “fully vaccinated” for purposes of the limited changes in the new proposed ETS, it “means the employer has documentation showing that the person received, at least 14 days prior” either the second dose of a two-dose regimen, or a single dose of an FDA approved or emergency authorized vaccine. This is also a departure from the CDC definition of “fully vaccinated,” which includes World Health Organization approved or emergency authorized vaccines. So, if you have employees coming in from abroad that have received the AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccines, they technically do not meet the qualifications under the proposed ETS and would have to be treated as if they were unvaccinated.

What’s The Same?

Unfortunately, OSHSB appears to have missed its biggest opportunity to align with CDC’s May 13 guidance: employees who are fully vaccinated still must wear face coverings while indoors and in mixed company with employees who are not fully vaccinated. This restriction is contrary to CDC’s May 13 guidance.

But various items from the prior proposed version of the ETS remain in place, including:

  • Fully vaccinated or naturally immune workers would not need to be excluded from work after a close contact so long as they remain symptom-free.
  • Employers still can provide employees who are not fully vaccinated with respirators for “voluntary use” to avoid having to enforce six-feet physical distancing for those individuals.
  • Employers would no longer need to offer COVID-19 testing to workplace close contacts if the potentially exposed employees were fully vaccinated or had natural immunity (previously infected within the prior 90 days).
  • The definition of a sufficient face covering would include only a medical, surgical, or two-fabric layer mask, or respirator—meaning many of the fancy masks that employees may have personally purchased will no longer meet the safety standard.
  • “Outbreak testing” would no longer be required when the local public health department identifies the workplace as the location of an outbreak—which could eliminate the challenge many employers have faced with inconsistency in how local public health departments identify outbreaks.
  • Individuals wearing a respirator under a Cal/OSHA-compliant respiratory protection program would be exempt from individuals identified under the definition of a “close contact.”
  • Notifications related to close contacts or outbreaks would be required to be given in a language the employee understands, and verbal notice would be permissible.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Remember that Cal/OSHA continues to update its interpretive guidance on the ETS via its Frequently Asked Questions page.

The full text of the proposed revision to the ETS can be found here and a comparison with the May 20 proposal can be found here. It’s likely the Standard Board will vote on June 3, 2021. It’s anticipated that the revised ETS would become effective on or around June 15, 2021, to align with the State’s “re-opening.”

Workplace Solutions

Remember to check in with your Seyfarth counselors regularly, as this is a rapidly developing area of law. If you need any assistance with your workplace safety planning, or have questions about requirements related to testing, quarantine, or how to pay workers that are out sick with COVID-19, please feel free to reach out to the authors of this post. Seyfarth can also assist with compliance counseling if you are considering implementing mandatory vaccination programs or creating incentives for your employees to be vaccinated.

By Brent I. Clark, James L. Curtis, Adam R. Young, Patrick D. Joyce, Ilana R. Morady, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA recently issued additional guidance addressing whether employers need to record an employee’s adverse vaccine reaction on their 300 Log.

Earlier this year, we blogged about OSHA’s guidance that an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine is recordable if the reaction is: (1) work-related, (2) a new case, (3) meets one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g., days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid), and (4) the vaccine is required for employees.

As the COVID-19 vaccine initiative continues to be a top public-health priority in the United States, federal OSHA revised this guidance to say it “will not enforce 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements to require any employers to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination through May 2022.” In other words, employers now have no duty to analyze whether an adverse reaction to the vaccine is work-related and otherwise recordable. In all cases across all industries, OSHA indicates it will simply not enforce the recordkeeping standard with respect to adverse COVID-19 vaccine reactions.

Neither OSHA’s prior nor its updated guidance address reporting of serious illnesses, meaning the requirement for employers to call OSHA and report an adverse vaccine reaction that results in a death within 30 days or an in-patient hospitalization for medical treatment within 24 hours. Presumably, OSHA would exercise the same discretion for voluntary vaccinations, but the issue is not entirely clear.

OSHA justified this shift in policy as part of its efforts to encourage vaccination. The guidance states, “OSHA does not wish to have any appearance of discouraging workers from receiving COVID-19 vaccination, and also does not wish to disincentivize employers’ vaccination efforts.”

This should be welcome news to employers, many of whom have also made employee vaccination a priority. Employers who might have shied away from workplace vaccine mandates given the potential recordkeeping ramifications may now move forward with less concern.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

Seyfarth Synopsis: On Monday, May 24th at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, Seyfarth attorneys Adam Young, Scott Hecker, and Patrick Joyce will present a webinar entitled Evolving Landscape: OSHA and CDC COVID-19 Guidance.

During his first full day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing OSHA to consider a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS). OSHA drafted an ETS, which is in White House review, and its imminent release has been reported for weeks. Meanwhile, since President Biden’s executive order, OSHA issued new COVID guidance and announced a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program that DOL is aggressively enforcing.  With new CDC guidance for fully vaccinated individuals announced on May 13, and OSHA playing catch up, the federal landscape is as slippery as ever.

In this mini-webinar, members of Seyfarth’s Workplace Safety & Environmental Practice Group will provide a status on the ETS and its contents. We will also discuss OSHA’s guidance, National Emphasis Program, and employer liabilities related to continued COVID precautions in the workplace. We will provide recommendations for how companies can respond to the new ETS and apply new guidance from the CDC for vaccinated employees.

Registration is free, but attendees are limited, so please Register Here.

If you have any questions, please contact Kelly Sokolowski at ksokolowski@seyfarth.com and reference this event.

Learn more about our Workplace Safety & Environmental practice.

This webinar is accredited for CLE in CA, IL, NJ, and NY. Credit will be applied for as requested for TX, GA, WA, NC, FL and VA.  The following jurisdictions accept reciprocal credit with these accredited states, and individuals can use the certificate they receive to gain CLE credit therein: AZ, CT, ME, NH.  The following jurisdictions do not require CLE, but attendees will receive general certificates of attendance: DC, MA, MD, MI, SD.  For all other jurisdictions, a general certificate of attendance and the necessary materials will be issued that can be used in other jurisdictions for self-application. If you have questions about jurisdictions, please email CLE@seyfarth.com.

By Brent I. ClarkJames L. CurtisAdam R. YoungA. Scott HeckerPatrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: On May 18, 2021, OSHA adopted (by reference) CDC’s May 13, 2021 guidance for fully vaccinated individuals in many non-healthcare settings. Specifically, OSHA announced that employers should “refer to the CDC guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers.”

According to the May 13, 2021 CDC “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People,” which OSHA adopts by reference, individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in the vast majority of indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of crowd size.

Under the Biden administration, federal OSHA has taken an aggressive position with regard to ramping up COVID-19 workplace health and safety enforcement, which often appears to conflict with CDC guidance. OSHA has not yet issued specific regulations relating to COVID-19 or infectious diseases more generally. OSHA supposedly has drafted a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), which has not yet been released. As of May 17, 2021, we understand that the ETS is moving forward and will apply to all general industry worksites.

After the transition to the Biden administration, OSHA issued COVID-19 Guidance on January 29, 2021. With respect to vaccinated employees, OSHA explains that “workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures, such as wearing face covering and remaining physically distant, because at this time, there is not [sic] evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person to person.” This prior guidance from OSHA appears to conflict with CDC’s May 13, 2021 update.

Until today, the probability of OSHA enforcement under two seemingly contradictory sets of guidance was an open question. Though the OSHA website still requires vaccinated employees continue to mask and social distance, OSHA has added a banner at the top of the webpage indicating that the CDC’s May 13, 2021 guidance will trump OSHA’s vaccinated employee guidance while OSHA reviews its own measures, and that new guidance from OSHA is forthcoming.

With respect to enforcement, OSHA looks to its guidance to determine whether hazards are “recognized” and whether employers’ health precautions are sufficient to abate the hazards. Due to OSHA’s adoption by reference of CDC’s May 13, 2021 update, we do not anticipate OSHA to try to establish liability based on alleged exposures from vaccinated, asymptotic employees.

As we previously blogged, the CDC’s May 13, 2021 guidance cautions that fully-vaccinated individuals must continue to abide by existing state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and applicable workplace guidance. Further, they must follow rules put in place by businesses. CDC indicates that people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

Non-safety considerations employers may want to take into account include how to internally enforce the requirement that only fully vaccinated individuals can go mask-less, whether employers’ policies may lead to disparate treatment or negatively impact morale, and maintained uniform corporate protocols.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Brent I. ClarkJames L. CurtisAdam R. YoungA. Scott HeckerPatrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: On May 13, 2021, the CDC announced further updated recommendations for fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings.

In an unexpected turnabout from previous guidance, the CDC updated its “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” to recognize that individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in the vast majority of indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of crowd size.

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

In deference to local authorities, fully vaccinated individuals must continue to abide by existing state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and applicable workplace guidance. Further, they must follow rules put in place by businesses. Many state and local jurisdictions currently have mandatory rules requiring masking and social distancing, mostly while indoors. Given this updated guidance, it is likely that state, local, and tribal governments, as well as businesses, will update mask requirements and guidance in the near future. We had previously blogged on the CDC’s updates allowing fully vaccinated individuals to remove masks outdoors, with certain restrictions.

The CDC new position can be summed up as follows: if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic. But the new guidance comes with caveats. Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and physically distance when going to doctors, hospitals, or long-term care facilities like nursing homes; when traveling by bus, plane, train or other modes of public transportation, or while in transportation hubs like airports and bus stations; and when in prisons, jails or homeless shelters.

Specific updates in the new guidance include:

  • Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most settings, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • Fully vaccinated people can refrain from quarantine and testing following a known COVID-19 exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter, or unless they start showing COVID-19 symptoms after exposure.

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and requirements put in place by businesses.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within 3 days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.