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Jun 03, 2021

WASHINGTON: Worker housing rules updated for vaccinated occupants

COVID-19Safety and Health 

On May 28, 2021, Washington's Departments of Labor & Industries (L&I) and Health updated the existing COVID-19 (coronavirus) safety rules for temporary worker housing (TWH) in the agriculture industry to lift certain restrictions for fully vaccinated workers. These revisions coincide with updated agriculture workplace requirements issued by Governor Jay Inslee, adding exceptions for fully vaccinated employees. Both updates are effective immediately. As a reminder, the larger framework for agricultural COVID-19 safety compliance in Washington continues to be Proclamation 20-57.1, and the implementing requirements for worksites, which we reported on here. The original TWH rules (as previously modified in September, January, and May) are still in effect, but with these latest changes:

Fully Vaccinated Occupants: Cloth face coverings are no longer required for occupants who are fully vaccinated, and they don’t need to be screened for COVID-19. Also, physical distancing is no longer required for fully vaccinated occupants, except in sleeping quarters. In sleeping quarters with only fully vaccinated occupants, emergency COVID-19 requirements no longer apply. Sleeping quarters may return to pre-COVID-19 standards for cots, beds, bedding, and personal storage; for example, both beds in a bunk bed may now be used and the special bed spacing requirements no longer apply. Relaxing the rules for fully vaccinated occupants is optional; operators have the choice to maintain masking and physical distancing requirements for these workers in their TWH.

Group Shelters: The rules continue to allow group shelters with both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals (the old rules that dealt specifically with fully vaccinated group shelters have been removed since they’re no longer necessary); however, if the group shelter occupants aren’t all vaccinated, the more stringent sleeping quarter requirements apply.

Proof of Vaccination Status: Vaccination status can now be verified by the TWH operator with a document signed by the occupant attesting to their status, or by any of the previously allowed methods such as a vaccination card, photo of the card, or some other health care provider record or state immunization record. Operators must still be able to show that they verified occupants’ vaccination status if requested by L&I, but are no longer required to keep an actual record of the proof of vaccination status the occupant provided. Full vaccination status must be verified by operators before the cloth face covering, bed spacing, or other physical distancing requirements are lifted.

Additional Changes: Operators need to educate unvaccinated occupants on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine and where to get answers to questions they have about the vaccine, in addition to the subjects previously required by these rules. (For training resources on specific topics, including in languages other than English, check out the Washington Department of Health’s COVID-19 resources and recommendations). Physical barriers for fixtures such as sinks where occupants may come in close contact for short periods of time are only required when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Cleaning and disinfecting requirements have been reduced to a less-frequent schedule as allowed under the current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Tips: Keep in mind that if a fully vaccinated worker contracts the virus, you need to follow existing COVID-19 isolation protocols. For questions about TWH requirements, connect with your Vigilant safety professional, and be sure to check out our recent reporting and guidance surrounding statewide options to relax workplace mask requirements for vaccinated workers in Washington. These latest COVID-19 TWH rules are only temporary, with a scheduled expiration date of September 25, 2021. Any future changes to the TWH rules will be posted on L&I’s rulemaking webpage for Temporary Worker Housing and we’ll report on them in our newsletter.

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.

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