SALEM, Ore. — Oregon OSHA said Monday that it has adopted a final rule, cementing temporary coronavirus measures in the workplace first adopted in November that the agency says will be repealed at a later date.
OSHA said that the final rule took effect on Tuesday and is largely the same as the measures that have been in place for months, though the final version reflects some changes after several months of public comment.
“We reviewed all of the comments – including the many comments that opposed the rule – and we gave particular consideration to those comments that explained their reasoning or provided concrete information," said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA. “Although we chose to move forward with the rule, the final product includes a number of changes based on that record.”
The rule includes existing measures such as physical distancing, use of face coverings, employee notification and training, formal exposure risk assessment and infection control planning, and requirements for optimization and maintenance of existing ventilation systems.
"We are keeping in place key protections for workers as part of Oregon’s larger and ongoing project to defeat COVID-19,” Wood continued. “To allow the workplace COVID-19 protections to simply go away would have left workers far less protected. And it would have left employers who want to know what is expected of them with a good deal less clarity than the rule provides.”
Officials said that the rule will be repealed when it is no longer needed to address the COVID-19 in the workplace, but there is no specific sunset date. Instead, the agency says it will be consulting with health officials and other committees to revisit the rule beginning "no later than July 2021," and every two months following if it is not repealed by then.
OSHA outlined the following changes from the temporary rule to the rule that took effect Tuesday:
- Reducing the number of industry-specific appendices by six and limiting such requirements specifically to those involving worker protection (which reduced the length of the appendices, and, therefore, of the entire rule, by more than 50 pages)
- Dramatically reducing the K-12 schools appendix and removing all references to cohorts and square footage limitations, as well as physical distancing between students.
- Requiring employers to consider alternatives to transporting multiple people in a single vehicle and providing other guidance about reducing risk while sharing vehicles. The rule does not, however, require using multiple vehicles to transport multiple employees.
- Requiring employers with more than 10 employees – and that have existing ventilation systems – to state in writing that, to the best of their knowledge, they are running their systems in line with requirements. The final rule does not require the purchase or installation of new ventilation systems.
- Reducing required sanitation measures to reflect the most up-to-date Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
- Requiring employers to provide written notification to employees of their rights to return to work when employees must quarantine.
- Requiring health care employers to provide respirators to employees working with known or suspected COVID-19-positive patients, unless such respirators are unavailable.