With the ever-evolving guidance regarding masking against COVID-19 in public, it’s no wonder employers and workers are confused regarding masks on the job.
In an effort to clear up the confusion, the states of California and Washington are offering new guidance for employers and workers.
Cal/OSHA ETS mask provision suspended
In California, the state’s Department of Public Health ended its requirement for the unvaccinated to mask in indoor public spaces on March 1, except in certain high-risk settings.
However, Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) still required unvaccinated individuals to mask at work.
On Feb. 28, Governor Gavin Newsom suspended the ETS rule, except in specified situations, according to law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth.
But several other ETS masking requirements still remain in effect, including during COVID-19 outbreaks or in any situation where employees are exposed to the virus.
And the state still requires employers to provide workers with masks at no cost to the employee, regardless of vaccination status.
L&I: ‘Masks no longer required for most workers’
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) issued new mask guidance March 12, stating, “Masks are no longer required for most workers.”
There is one caveat, however, as L&I reminds Washington employers that “the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency and a recognized workplace hazard,” so employers must continue to ensure a safe workplace.
L&I says employers must allow workers to voluntarily wear masks (respirators, medical procedure masks or cloth face coverings) and PPE as long as it doesn’t create a safety or security issue.
Masks are still required for all workers:
- in hospitals, dentist offices, medical facilities and other healthcare settings
- in long-term care settings, including home care, home health and home hospice
- in locations where masking is required by federal law, such as public transit, taxis and ride-share vehicles
- in correctional facilities
- when following quarantine or isolation guidelines for wearing a well-fitting mask per the Department of Health or the employer’s local health agency, and
- when the employer chooses to require mask use.