On Thursday, June 3rd, the Standards Board Advisory Committee held an emergency meeting to hear public comment and vote on Cal OSHA’s (The Division’s) post May 20th modifications.

On May 20, 2021, the Advisory Committee met to vote on the acceptance or denial of the Division’s proposed changes to the COVID 19 Prevention Standard. The Committee opted to postpone their vote, requesting the Division to make additional modifications to proposed language, meeting most-current Federal, State, and Local ever-changing guidelines. The most-current proposed changes to be considered in an emergency meeting on June 3rd to re-visit the Division’s NEWLY-proposed changes.

After seven hours of listening to public comment, the Board members proceeded with their business meeting to vote…drama ensued.

The Board members voted 4-3, with the majority against the proposed changes. The Board then took a recess, came back and approved the changes?!?!? What happened in that recess? What persuaded the change of position? Did someone higher up in California politics make a phone call? We may never know.

Primary changes include the following:

  1. Those employees who are “fully vaccinated” do not need to wear face coverings when outside. Must continue to wear inside unless, see next item
  2. IF 100% of employee population in a workplace is vaccinated, then face coverings do not need to be worn inside (100% vaccinated employee population is not a reasonable achievement for many reasons…medical, religious, other personal reasons).
  3. AFTER July 31, 2021, employers are REQUIRED to provide all unvaccinated employees with N95 respirators for use on a voluntary basis (i.e. unvaccinated employee choice).

Items 1 and 2 will divide employees into two classes, creating segregation, promoting potential for harassment, workplace violence, etc.
Item 3 will exacerbate and grow the divide between our newly-created two classes of employees. Shining a light on medical conditions, religious beliefs, and personal choices has always been viewed as Privacy violation or Rights infringement, but that perspective has, apparently, been pushed aside for this regulation. Item 3 is also going to test the N95 supply market, and test an Employer’s ability to accurately estimate needs and capacity to fund the purchase of N95 filtering face pieces.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The new language requires employers to have “enough” N95s available for all unvaccinated employees who wish to wear. N95s are designed as disposable devices and must only be used until determined no longer safe to use (no longer safe to use can be very subjective, but technically designed as a one-shift use product). Follow all manufacturer’s proper use guidelines.

This is an ever-changing issue. The newly-approved language was submitted to Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for approval to make law (up to 10 days to approve).

Additionally, during the June 3rd meeting, the Advisory Committee established a three-person subcommittee to continue discussion with the Division regarding further potential modifications to the Standard’s language.

Will the subcommittee vote on additional changes during their June 17th meeting?
What impact will the June 15th opening of California have?
Where will all of the N95s come from starting August 1? Millions will be needed.

Stay tuned…

Mike Geosano