The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has released emergency temporary rules requiring masks to be worn indoors in nearly all business settings as of August 13, 2021, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The rules are in effect through February 8, 2022, unless rescinded sooner. The new rules define indoor spaces to include “public and private workplaces, businesses, indoor areas open to the public, building lobbies, common or shared spaces, classrooms, elevators, bathrooms, transportation services and other indoor space where people may gather for any purpose.” The mask requirements apply regardless of whether an individual is vaccinated against COVID-19. Civil penalties for noncompliance are up to $500 per day per violation.
An employee doesn’t have to wear a mask in an individual private workspace, which is defined as “an indoor space within a public or private workplace used for work by one individual at a time that is enclosed on all sides with walls from floor to ceiling and with a closed door.” It’s unclear how this might be applied in workplace settings such as a warehouse where employees may work far apart but are still within view of each other. Since OHA’s rule doesn’t address physical distancing, the safest approach at this time is to require masks for everyone indoors who isn’t alone in a room.
Based on OHA’s definitions, if employees ride together in a vehicle during the workday, they should wear masks. We recommend that you also advise them to wear masks if they commute together before or after work, since the risks of transmission are the same.
The new rules require businesses with indoor spaces to ensure that employees, contractors, and volunteers comply with the mask requirements. For customers, guests, and visitors, you just need to make “reasonable efforts” to obtain their compliance. You must also post signs at every entrance to the indoor space that face coverings are required.
OHA’s rule is in response to Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s press conference on August 11, 2021, saying that she would issue an executive order requiring masks to be worn indoors throughout the state. She also announced that Oregon OSHA would be handling enforcement. The text of the executive order hasn’t yet been posted, but the governor’s one-page summary and OHA’s press release provide some high-level information. We anticipate Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 web page will soon be updated with the new mask requirements.
Before the governor’s announcement, the Multnomah County Chair had already issued an executive order directing the county health department to publish a mask mandate effective August 13, 2021. Details are in the corresponding Multnomah County Health Department order. Unlike OHA, the county health department says workers don’t have to wear masks if they can keep at least 6 feet apart from other people. However, unless or until Oregon OSHA or OHA publishes a similar interpretation, you should stick with requiring masks in all indoor workspaces where people aren’t working alone in an enclosed room, since that would be most protective of employees. Multnomah County’s executive order requiring masks indoors will remain in effect until rescinded. Penalties for noncompliance are up to $1,000 per violation.
Tips: Even though OHA’s rules don’t address who should provide masks in the workplace, you should have a supply of clean masks ready for any worker who needs them, at no charge. In hot work environments where employees sweat through the masks, you should plan on offering replacements midway through the shift, or more often if needed. If you have questions about Oregon’s mask requirements, contact your Vigilant safety professional.