Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Aug 19, 2021

WASHINGTON: Masks required indoors effective August 23, 2021

COVID-19DisabilitySafety and Health 

Governor Jay Inslee announced yesterday that all individuals, whether vaccinated or not, must wear masks when in an indoor public space beginning August 23, 2021, with limited exceptions. The Washington Department of Health responded by posting Order 20-03.4 (Face Coverings – Statewide). Significant work-related exceptions to this general requirement to wear masks indoors include the following:

  • You may allow fully vaccinated employees to go without a mask indoors if they work in an area that isn’t generally accessible to the public, as long as there aren’t any customers, volunteers, visitors, or other non-employees present.
  • Employees working alone don’t have to wear a mask. Working alone means they’re “isolated from interactions with others and have little or no expectation of in-person interruptions.” Examples include an employee who is unlikely to be visited and works by themselves in an office with a closed door, a crane operator isolated in a cab, a delivery driver who doesn’t have any face-to-face interaction with others, and a lone janitor in a building.
  • When eating or drinking, employees may remove their masks. Although Washington no longer has physical distancing requirements, Vigilant recommends ensuring that employees stay at least 6 feet apart in lunchrooms or other common areas when eating or drinking.
  • Individuals with a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask are exempt from the order. However, as an employer you should evaluate whether you can reasonably accommodate the employee’s inability to wear a mask, such as by offering alternate work that limits physical proximity to other people, or whether doing so would pose an undue hardship to your organization or a direct threat to health and safety.

We anticipate the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L &I)’s COVID-19 web page will soon be updated with the new mask requirements as well.

Tips: Be sure to also stay abreast of any local orders; the Department of Health’s order allows cities and counties to impose more protective requirements. You may need to update your COVID-19 (coronavirus) exposure control plan to ensure it reflects the statewide masking changes (or any stricter local requirements) and post signage requiring the public and guests to wear masks when entering your business. You should also 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 Washington's mask requirements, contact 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.