OREGON: Oregon OSHA adopts permanent COVID-19 workplace rule
On May 4, 2021, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Oregon OSHA) released its long-awaited permanent rule, Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Risks (OAR 437-001-0744). The new rule replaces and is substantially consistent with the now expired temporary rule which we previously reported on. This new rule applies to all Oregon employers and will remain in effect until it is repealed by Oregon OSHA, in full or in part, when it is no longer necessary to address the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. There are a few new obligations in the rule, which take effect on June 3, 2021:
Notice: Employers must provide written notice to employees who quarantine or isolate that they have a right to return to work if their job is still available. Placing another employee in the position doesn’t make the job unavailable. In addition, employers are encouraged to also provide any relevant information about available paid time off, sick leave, or any other benefits. See Vigilant’s newly created Model Form, Oregon Quarantine or Isolation Notice for COVID-19.
Ventilation: All employers with an existing HVAC system must certify in writing that to the best of their knowledge they are operating that system in accordance with the rule. Oregon OSHA will supply a sample form. Employers must also inspect and maintain the air filters and intake ports of their systems on a quarterly basis.
Transportation: For all employers with 10 or more employees, when employees are transported in a vehicle for work purposes, regardless of the travel distance or duration, you must now minimize exposure by eliminating the need for employees to share a vehicle wherever practicable, or, if employees must share a vehicle, then all occupants must continue to wear an appropriate face covering, the outside air must be increased (for example by opening windows, weather permitting), and employees must be separated to the extent possible.
Meanwhile, here’s the status of some of the most important requirements that were in the temporary rule and continue to be in effect:
Risk Assessment, Infection Control Plan, and Infection Control Training: These requirements are unchanged from the temporary rule and employers who have already satisfied these requirements don’t need to repeat those actions or make changes. If you haven’t yet completed those three items, review the model forms and policies on Oregon OSHA’s Infectious Disease Rulemaking webpage and talk with your Vigilant safety professional for assistance.
Masks: Current mask and face covering requirements remain unchanged for now and you must continue to require them as before, regardless of an employee’s vaccination status. Oregon OSHA has stated that they expect requirements to evolve and will issue interpretive guidance as circumstances of the pandemic change (for example as more people are vaccinated).
Non-retaliation: Also unchanged is the requirement forbidding retaliation against workers who need to quarantine (to see whether symptoms develop after exposure to someone with COVID-19) or isolate (after coming down with the virus). Oregon OSHA detailed this requirement in a December 2020 press release, which clarified that workers who must quarantine or isolate for COVID-19 are protected from retaliation or discrimination, must be allowed to work from home if suitable work is available, and must be allowed to return to their previous job duties without adverse action after the quarantine or isolation period.
Tips: Most employers should already be complying with the majority of the requirements in this new rule. If you aren’t sure, or if you need any assistance with the safety aspects of this workplace rule, contact your Vigilant safety professional. For help with the written notice to employees, please contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.