Earlier today, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board held a public meeting to consider, among other items, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which was developed to replace the existing ETS that has been in place since December 1, 2020.

During the initial portion of the meeting, the Standards Board heard comments from the public and various stakeholders, who, as during previous public meetings, advocated for and against continued restrictions in the workplace. Following the public comment portion, Eric Berg on behalf of Cal/OSHA described the timeline of the agency developing the rule and finalizing its draft revised ETS.  In particular Berg noted that, after the rule was developed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance that vaccinated individuals could go without masks indoors, followed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announcement that it would implement the same guidance on June 15, 2021.  This caused Cal/OSHA last night to send a memorandum to the Standards Board requesting that the Board not adopt the revised ETS because the agency wanted to have the opportunity to revisit the proposed rule in light of the updated CDC guidance, and re-submit a proposed rule at a future date.  Berg reiterated this request during the meeting, indicating that Cal/OSHA would like to target implementing a revised draft of the ETS on June 15, to coincide with the governor’s lifting of mask requirements.

The Board provided comments on the revision process, including cautioning against lifting restrictions too quickly, raising concerns that heavy reliance on vaccinations could create a “two class system,” and advising Cal/OSHA to reconsider its respirator requirements.  They also discussed what options exist in terms of voting, clarifying that if they vote not to accept Cal/OSHA’s revised rule, the existing ETS will remain in place until October.  In response to a Board member’s request, Eric Berg also clarified that Cal/OSHA could begin working on a permanent standard immediately.

Ultimately, the Board agreed unanimously to table the ETS voting and take it up again at a June 3, 2021 meeting.   A revised draft ETS will be published by Cal/OSHA by May 28, 2021.  The existing ETS requirements remain in place.