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Jul 01, 2020

ALERT: Understand face covering requirements in your area

COVID-19Safety and Health 

Understand face covering requirements in your area
Vigilant members have been asking how recent face covering mandates to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) apply to their businesses, so below is a summary of the general requirements in our member states. California, Oregon, and Washington have statewide face covering mandates. Arizona and Idaho don’t have statewide orders but now allow local orders. Montana doesn’t impose any requirements, although it encourages voluntary use of face coverings in public.

Governor Doug Ducey’s Executive Order 2020-40 (Containing the Spread of COVID-19 Continuing Arizona Mitigation Efforts) authorizes counties, cities, and towns, based on local conditions, to adopt policies requiring people to wear face coverings in public. The order took effect on June 17, 2020, and will be considered for revision or repeal every two weeks. Be alert to any local orders that may affect your area.

As we previously reported, effective June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health is requiring people to wear face coverings in “high-risk situations” statewide. For workers, this includes activities such as interacting in-person with the public, working in a space visited by the public, working where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution, walking through common areas such as hallways and parking lots, and being in an enclosed area with non-household members who are unable to physically distance themselves. Additional high-risk situations include personal activities such as being inside any indoor public space (regardless of distance between people) or being outdoors in public spaces (if it isn’t feasible to keep six feet apart from non-household members). More information is available on the state’s masks webpage.

Idaho currently doesn’t have any statewide face covering requirements, although on June 25, 2020, Governor Brad Little announced the state is transitioning to a regional approach to addressing the virus. The seven public health districts may issue regional directives based on local conditions, so you should keep an eye on your local health district’s website. According to the Idaho stages of reopening website, the state as a whole is in Stage 4 (Stay Healthy). Businesses are advised to “Identify how personal use items such as masks, face coverings and gloves shall be worn, if necessary, for employees, vendors, and patrons.” Additional statewide guidance is available on the webpage with business-specific protocols for opening.

Montana currently doesn’t have any statewide face covering requirements. According to the governor’s COVID-19 web page, the state is in Phase 2 of reopening. On June 25, 2020, the state updated its Phase 2 reopening FAQs, including a new question, “Is Montana going to require the public to wear masks to prevent more cases?” The response is: “At this time, wearing a mask is strongly recommended in public settings. The CDC also recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” For most businesses, Governor Steve Bullock’s Phase 2 directive doesn’t mandate face coverings, but says employers should “Develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding… [s]ocial distancing and protective equipment.”

Beginning July 1, 2020, all Oregonians must wear face coverings whenever they’re in an indoor public space (with exceptions for those with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask or makes it impractical and for children under 12). We previously reported that Governor Kate Brown implemented this rule for seven counties in the state. She has now extended the rule statewide. The rule applies to all visitors to indoor spaces open to the public, and to certain businesses and their visitors. What’s clear for employers is that if you run a retail operation inviting in the public, you generally must require your employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and visitors to wear a face covering. What’s less clear is how you should apply the rule if you’re a non-retail business with common areas such as a lobby, elevator, bathrooms, or meeting rooms where delivery people, clients, or applicants may visit, but where the public generally isn’t invited to come and go. The conservative approach is to apply the rule to all non-employees who enter your building, particularly for anyone who stays more than a few minutes. For your own workers, you should continue to follow existing general guidance for employers as well as any industry-specific guidance posted on the governor’s COVID-19 resource page.

Effective June 26, 2020, almost every person in Washington must wear a face covering in indoor and outdoor public settings. The order from the Department of Health requires face coverings for public spaces inside buildings, including businesses open to the public; health care settings; public transportation, private car service, and ride-share; and public parks, trails, streets, and sidewalks where a six-foot distance between non-household members cannot be maintained. Face coverings can be removed in certain situations, such as being seated at a restaurant or exercising, so long as a six-foot distance is maintained, as well as talking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing if wearing a mask prevents communication. Similarly, children under five and people with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability are exempt from the mandatory face covering. The new order doesn’t change Governor Jay Inslee’s June 8 directive (which we previously reported) that all employees must wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction.

Tips: As an employer, you should use a two-step process to assess when to require face coverings in your business, keeping in mind that they’re not a substitute for personal protective equipment (PPE) in workplace settings where respiratory protection is required. First, determine when face coverings are required in your business settings, based on statewide or local orders. Second, determine when they’re currently recommended by public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Armed with that information, you can assess your particular work environment and decide on the best approach to protect your employees and visitors while still running your business. Be sure to think through situations where non-employees come to your worksite, such as applicants coming to your location to be interviewed. Update your existing policies with any new protocols. This might include an illness and injury prevention plan, physical distancing policy, or exposure control plan. For ideas, see our Model Policies, Social Distancing Policy and Washington Manufacturing Facility COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan, and talk with your Vigilant safety professional.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.