Cal/OSHA’s has issued its revisions to the temporary emergency standard on COVID. The modifications include a July 31st sunset on physical distancing, engineering controls in some instances, and broad exemptions for vaccinated employees. These are among many changes to the 31-page standard the Standards Board recently released.

The board will consider the revisions at its May 20th meeting and likely vote on them that day. Since it is a readoption of the emergency standard from last November, it would be effective as soon as approved by the state Office of Administrative law. But stakeholders will have plenty to say at the meeting.

The sunset provisions apply to physical distancing and engineering controls in the requirements for employers’ written COVID control plans. The former requires employees to be separated by at least six feet, except when it is not feasible. Under the revision, employees wearing respirators and locations where all employees are vaccinated are exempt from physical distancing.

The engineering control sunset applies to stations where employees are assigned to work for extended periods, such as cash registers, desks, and production line stations. Until July 31st, when physical distancing isn’t possible, employers must install cleanable solid partitions.

Notably, the revision exempts employees who telecommute from the standard. The provision includes employees “teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice, which is not under the control of the employer.”

Additionally, it exempts employees wearing respirators from the definition of “close contact,” and excludes from the definition of “exposed group” parts of the workplace where employees momentarily pass through.

Employers also would be required to train employees on how to wear respirators whenever they are provided for voluntary use properly. The July 31st sunset also applies to an employer’s responsibility to evaluate the need for respiratory protection that complies with the Title respiratory protection standard, General Industry Safety Orders §5144.

The revisions also include modified pay provisions and return-to-work requirements.
Cal/OSHA has exempted fully vaccinated residents regarding the controversial agricultural housing requirements and increased the minimum distance between beds to eight feet, from six. Vaccinated employees also would be exempt from the provisions on employer-provided transportation.