Oregon Proposes Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Rule
Oregon OSHA is proposing a permanent rule that largely maintains risk-reducing measures required by the current temporary emergency rule to help protect workers against COVID-19.
It would replace the temporary rule, which expires on May 4.
The proposed permanent rule will receive virtual public hearings later this month and in early March. The rule must be adopted as permanent because the law does not allow a temporary rule to be extended, and Oregon OSHA expects to repeal the permanent rule once it is no longer needed to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“The public health emergency triggered by COVID-19 remains a significant concern in Oregon – as we know, we have not yet defeated this disease and we clearly will not have done so by the time the temporary rule expires. As a result, it is critically important that we carry forward measures that we know are effective at combating the spread of this disease and reducing risks in the workplace,” Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA, said in a statement. “Failure to do so will undoubtedly leave workers far less protected and leave employers with far less clarity and certainty in terms of what is expected of them.”
As with the temporary rule, which took effect Nov. 16, 2020, the proposed permanent rule maintains such requirements as physical distancing; use of face coverings; regular sanitation; employee notification and training; maximization and maintenance of existing ventilation systems; and formal exposure risk assessment and infection control planning.
The proposed permanent rule would enable employers to rely upon the risk assessments, infection control plans, and infection control training already completed.
The permanent rule would add measures and strengthen provisions in certain areas.
Those proposed changes include:
- Requiring employers to consider alternatives to transporting multiple people in a single vehicle.
- Slightly modifying the ventilation measures so that employers with more than 10 employees – and that have existing ventilation systems – must certify in writing that they are running their systems in line with current requirements.
- Requiring employers to provide written notification to employees of their rights to return to work when employees must quarantine.
- Requiring employers to cooperate with public health authorities that ask to arrange for vaccination in the workplace. This proposed requirement is similar to the temporary rule’s provision mandating cooperation with public health officials if COVID-19 testing in the workplace is necessary.
- Requiring healthcare employers to provide respirators to employees working with known or suspected COVID-19-positive patients unless they demonstrate there is a genuine shortage that they are working to resolve.
The proposed permanent rule also strengthens the language discouraging the use of face shields, which have been shown to be less effective than masks or facial coverings although such devices would remain an option for source control.
Virtual public hearings will be held at 10 a.m. on Feb. 23 and Feb. 26, and at 5 p.m. on March 3 and March 4. The comment period will close on April 2. More details are available on Oregon OSHA website.