— Oregon OSHA today removed the facial covering and physical distancing requirements of its COVID-19 rule for all workplaces, with certain exceptions, including health care, public transit, and airports.
The move by the division is part of a formal process involving initial amendments to the existing requirements of its COVID-19 rule for all workplaces. It also encompasses similar changes that will be made to another COVID-19 rule addressing housing provided by employers, including as part of agricultural operations.
The lifting of the facial covering and distancing requirements – effective immediately – are consistent with previous public announcements about the reopening of Oregon, including by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.
However, that does not mean that all of Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 requirements are going away immediately. For the rule addressing all workplaces, examples of measures that will remain in place longer include optimization of ventilation, notification of a positive case in the workplace, and proper steps to take if an employee must quarantine.
While the facial covering and distancing provisions are removed from the rule addressing employer-provided housing, the rule’s measures – including placement of beds and air purifiers – remain in place.
Meanwhile, Oregon OSHA continues to meet on a regular basis with stakeholders about the eventual full repeal of the requirements.
Indeed, the fact that Oregon OSHA has lifted – and will no longer enforce – the basic facial covering and distancing parts of its requirements does not mean that the risks of COVID-19 are gone.
“It is heartening to see that we have come so far and are experiencing an improving situation,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “But the risks remain real – especially for those who are not fully vaccinated. That is why, from a risk management standpoint, it makes sense to keep some provisions of our workplace requirements in place longer.”
Wood added, “We need to remain vigilant and encourage more people to get vaccinated.”
To put these changes into effect, documents have been filed for the general workplace rule. The documents are available here: https://osha.oregon.gov/OSHARules/adopted/2021/ao5-2021-letter-cov19-allworkplaces.pdf
The amendment to the employer-provided housing rules are in the process of being filed and will soon be available on the website here: https://osha.oregon.gov/rules/making/Pages/adopted.aspx
The changes implemented by Oregon OSHA do not preclude businesses from choosing to put their own facial covering and distancing measures in place, as long as they do so according to public health guidelines and keeping in mind accommodations for people with disabilities.
Oregon OSHA extended its requirements for all workplaces, which took effect May 4, to maintain risk-reducing safety measures for workers against the coronavirus. The requirements were developed – and, in several cases, adjusted – based on extensive public input, comments, and technical and stakeholder review.
When it extended the requirements, Oregon OSHA committed to an ongoing process to eventually repeal the rules in their entirety when they are no longer needed to address the pandemic in the workplace.
As part of that process, Oregon OSHA continues to consult with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the Oregon Health Authority, the two Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, and other stakeholders.
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