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Coronavirus

Oregon OSHA extends COVID-19 workplace protections rule, outlines repeal process

Vows to coordinate with other agencies every 2 months until data shows rule can be repealed

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon OSHA said Tuesday it has adopted a rule to maintain risk-reducing safety measures for workers across the state against the coronavirus but again insisted the controversial extension of the regulations won't be permanent and outlined a process to repeal the rule when the pandemic eases.

Although the rule includes several changes, based on public comments received since the rule was proposed in late January, "the basic requirements are largely consistent with those that have been in place since the agency adopted a temporary workplace rule last November," the agency said.

The rule – which OSHA said will be repealed when it is no longer needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the workplace – took effect Tuesday, at the end of a public process that included both stakeholder involvement and more than two months of public comment. 

As with the temporary rule it replaces, the rule includes such health protection measures as physical distancing; use of face coverings; employee notification and training; formal exposure risk assessment and infection control planning; and optimization and maintenance of existing ventilation systems.

One of the most significant areas of public comment concerned the lack of a specific sunset date or other trigger to automatically repeal the rule. As a result, the final rule includes considerably more detail about the process and criteria that will be used to make the decision to repeal the rule. Oregon OSHA said it "determined that the ongoing pandemic required that the rule be extended to ensure workers receive basic protections from the workplace health hazard presented by COVID-19."

The rule went through the normal process, unlike the greatly abbreviated process allowed for a temporary rule, because Oregon state law does not allow a rule using that temporary process to be in place more than 180 days.

“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.”

“At the same time, we are keeping in place key protections for workers, as part of Oregon’s larger and ongoing project to defeat COVID-19,” Wood said. “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.”

Because Oregon OSHA determined it is not possible to assign a specific time for a decision to repeal the rule, Oregon OSHA has committed to consulting with the Oregon OSHA Partnership Committee, the two Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committees, the Oregon Health Authority and other stakeholders to help determine when the rule can be repealed.

The first of these discussions will take place no later than July, and will continue every two months until the rule has been repealed. The indicators factoring into the decision will include infection rates (including the rate of spread of COVID-19 variants), positivity rates and vaccination rates, as well as hospitalizations and fatalities.

While the final rule broadly reflects the temporary rule, it also includes some significant changes. Those include:

  • 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.

OSHA said the final rule also makes clear that the risk assessment, infection control plan, and infection control training completed under the temporary rule do not need to be repeated as a result of the adoption of the final rule.

The division offers resources to help employers and workers understand and apply the requirements. Those resources include consultation services that provide no-cost assistance with safety and health programs and technical staff, who help employers understand requirements.

Meanwhile, the division has also adopted COVID-19 workplace requirements for workers who rely on housing provided by employers, including as part of farming operations. Those requirements were adopted April 30, and will work in tandem with the comprehensive COVID-19 rule by providing specific guidance for situations involving such housing.  

Learn more about the division’s workplace guidance and resources related to COVID-19: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/re/covid-19.aspx

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state's workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, go to osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.oregon.gov/dcbs/.  

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Comments

6 Comments

  1. We have to come together and put an end to this massive governmental power grab that would have Tom McCall rolling in his grave! Read the rules closely, if you have a home-based business or work from home, they could be coming into your home! Without a Warrant!

  2. I read about another group that insisted that everyone “Show me your papers”. If you didn’t they put you on a train. Really great people that Kate Brown’s Gestapo is modeled after.

  3. The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.–Tom Clancy

  4. Geez guys, you know you’re not supposed to be using logic when interpreting the queens order, right? They are absolute and based on political ideals and not science. Silly you, thinking this would resolve with rational thought. Freedom isn’t free!

  5. So OSHA decided it was a police force. The original….ORIGINAL mind you…purpose of OSHA was to regulate the employer/employee relationship. Even now they still have stated on their website that they do not come between the business and the customers. They must be getting paid well to be the SS for Keizer Kate.

  6. This state is just a joke. Kate brown is a horrible person, really just the worst. Everyone in the state has the ability to get a vaccine. You can literally walk into a Safeway pharmacy and get it now. Of course OR is the only state to increase restrictions while the rest of the country gets back to the real world.

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