Oregon OSHA Adopts Permanent Rule Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Safety

Written May 26, 2021

Categories: AD Advocacy, CP Advocacy, DP Advocacy, DT Advocacy, First to Know, FP Advocacy, GP Advocacy, IPDAA Advocacy, SM Advocacy

Last year, Oregon OSHA adopted a temporary rule outlining requirements for implementation of COVID-19 workplace safety plans for all employers operating in Oregon.  This temporary rule expired on May 4, 2021 and now Oregon OSHA has adopted a final rule, effective immediately, to replace the expired temporary rule.   The final rule, as adopted, has a delayed effective date of June 6, 2021 for ventilation, transportation, and employee notification.  These issues are addressed further in this fact sheet.

The final rule continues the same basic requirements established in the temporary rule related to facial coverings and physical distancing. Facial coverings generated a lot of public opposition but not from most employer and labor organizations. Face shields remain an option for source control, although the agency strengthened the language discouraging their use unless necessary.

The following outlines the specific changes in the final rule. 

Question:  The temporary rule indicated that the rule’s requirements would be repealed once it is no longer necessary to address the COVID-19 pandemic.   What is the timeline for repeal?
Answer:  The final rule provides more detail regarding the criteria that will be used for repeal and commits to meetings with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the two Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, and other stakeholders, beginning in July and at least every two months thereafter, to discuss whether all or part of the rule can and should be repealed.

Question:  In the proposal rule, the Agency addressed the issue of vaccinations.  How was this resolved in the final rule?
Answer:  In the final rule, as adopted, Oregon OSHA removed all mention of vaccination. In addition, consistent with the approach now recommended by Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor (“federal OSHA”), Oregon OSHA is not encouraging employers to distinguish between workers based on vaccination status.

Question:  Does the final rule address sanitation requirements?
Answer:  The proposed rule retained the same sanitation requirements from the temporary rule, which was somewhat less burdensome than Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance from fall 2020. The CDC recently updated their guidance to significantly reduce sanitation expectations. The final rule, as adopted, reflects the most up-to-date CDC guidance.

Question:  If the employer has already conducted a risk assessment, developed an infection control plan, and conducted infection control training, do these actions need to be repeated?
Answer:  Language in the final rule clearly states that if these actions were completed in compliance with the temporary rule, then the employer does not need to duplicate them.  It is important that employers ensure that their training records are kept up to date.

Question:  What changes were made to ventilation requirements for employers?
Answer:  The final rule requires, that by June 3, 2021, all employers with 10 or more employees must certify in writing that their HVAC system is operating, to the best of their knowledge, according to the rule’s requirements.  The requirements require employers to optimize the amount of outside air circulated through the existing system to maintain healthy indoor temperatures.  the certification must be dated, include the name of the person making the certification, and kept on file as long as the rule is in effect. 

It is important to note that this does not require employers to install new HVAC systems.  However, commencing June 3, 2021, employers must ensure that all air filters are maintained and replaced, as necessary, to ensure proper function.  Additionally, all intake ports that do provide outside air to the system must be cleaned, maintained, and cleared of any debris that may affect the function of the system. These system checks and maintenance must be performed quarterly.

PRINTING United Alliance members are encouraged to download the Oregon COVID-19 Regulatory Fact Sheet for additional information.  Questions?  Please feel free to reach out to Marci Kinter, mkinter@printing.org; Gary Jones, gjones@printing.org, or Adriane Harrison, aharrison@printing.org.