Vigilant Blog

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

Jun 04, 2020

WASHINGTON: Rules change on reopening and face coverings

COVID-19DisabilitySafety and Health 

On May 31, 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued Proclamation 20-25.4, Safe Start – Stay Healthy, which moves the state forward in reopening recreational, social, and business activities. The proclamation transitions the state from the original Stay Home – Stay Healthy order to a county-by-county phased reopening plan. The plan isn’t entirely new—phased reopening was introduced in the first Safe Start plan on May 4. The revised Safe Start plan, effective June 1, retains the four phases of the original plan, but removes the uniform transition between phases. Instead, it’s a county-initiated process. When a county has been in a phase for at least three weeks and has met certain data markers (e.g., lower infection rates, adequate hospital capacity, timely contact tracing, available testing, etc.), the county can ask the Department of Health for approval to move to the next stage or even portions of the next stage. A color-coded map showing each county’s current phase is posted on the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard. A list of pending applications from counties to move into a different phase is posted on the web page for county status and Safe Start application process. Safe Start—Stay Healthy specifically addresses counties still in Phase 1; if certain targets are met, they can apply for a modified Phase 1. Modified Phase 1 and Phase 2 both allow manufacturing and construction if industry guidelines are met, as well as limited social gatherings, retail, and professional services.

Another notable aspect of the May 31 proclamation is the directive that as of June 8, all employees must wear a cloth face covering except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when there is no in-person interaction. There are also limited exceptions related to disabilities, such as when communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Employers must provide the face coverings, although an employee can use their own so long as it meets the requirements in the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I)’s temporary enforcement guidance on annual fit-testing, respiratory protection, and face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was revised on May 22. The guidance includes a Hazard Considerations chart for employers outside the health care industry that details the face covering, mask, or respiratory protection required based on the degree of transmission risk at the work site. L&I also published “Which Mask for Which Task?,” dated June 1, 2020, which gives helpful examples of work environments and common job tasks by risk level with the face covering requirements for each.

Tips For Employers: Review the rules that apply to your workplace and be very careful to stay within the activities allowed in the current phase for your county. On May 26, 2020, L&I adopted emergency rules allowing it to issue citations of $10,000 or more to businesses violating the Safe Start plan. It will be conducting spot checks to confirm compliance as well.

For face coverings, be prepared to require and provide the appropriate face coverings by June 8. If you have questions about the proper face covering or personal protective equipment (PPE) for your work site or particular jobs, 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.