Cal-OSHA Approves Revisions to the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 Prevention

On June 3, 2021, the Cal-OSHA standards board voted to approve proposed revisions to the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 Prevention. A June 4 Cal/OSHA news release can be found HERE that covers the board decision. Please also see my detailed previous post on the ETS and the Covid Protection Plan HERE. Cal/OSHA had planned to vote on the published revisions on May 20, but the Deputy Chief for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health requested to postpone the vote so the Division could review recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Cal/OSHA then re-published the revised standards on June 1, 2021, for review ahead of the June 3 vote. The June 3 standards board meeting was interesting because the Board initially voted against the proposed revisions. They reconvened after a recess and then decided to approve the revisions reversing their original vote of the same evening. The approved ETS is now sitting in the Office of Administrative Law (AOL), which is expected to be approved and effected on June 15.

The new revisions to the ETS were expected to more closely follow the latest CDC guidance issued on May 16, but in the final published revision, there were not as many changes as expected. The Standards Board is also going to be meeting again on June 9 in a special meeting to discuss the potential new rule. The special meeting announcement stated that the purpose of the meeting was to review the latest information from the California Department of Public Health. There is also a placeholder in the Boards agenda for the June 17 meeting to potentially approve revised standards.

By approving the current revision to the ETS, Cal/OSHA is continuing to require affected employers to maintain a Covid Protection Plan. Below are some of the fundamental changes to the ETS. Please be sure to review the standard in detail and make changes to your companies Covid Protection Plan accordingly.

  • The approved revisions continue to require masks to be worn indoors at all times by vaccinated and unvaccinated employees who fall within the scope of the ETS with the following exceptions:

  • Cal-OSHA is directing employers to have a documented and effective method to track vaccination status.

  • As of July 31, employers are required to provide unvaccinated employees NIOSH-approved N95 respirators for voluntary use. These are the same respirators required by the Cal-OSHA wildfire smoke exposure regulations passed in 2019 for outdoor work. NIOSH-approved respirators are different from face coverings because they filter to a certain efficiency and protect the wearer. Face coverings, typically seen during the pandemic, are more protective of others by preventing the spread of a cough or sneeze. This requirement will also trigger the need for employers to put into place certain elements of a Respirator Protection Program.

  • The new regulation is allowing the discontinuation of partitions after July 31. Until then, the partitions need to stay in place unless employees are using an approved NIOSH N95 Respirator.

  • Training required by the ETS now requires employers to inform employees about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine against serious illness or death.

  • The original ETS has provisions that are specific to housing and transportation. The revised ETS now does not apply if all occupants are fully vaccinated.

  • The original ETS stated employees who had close contact with a positive COVID-19 case had to be excluded from the workplace until certain criteria had been met. The passed revisions now exempt fully vaccinated employees from the exclusion period unless they test positive.

  • The revisions also exempt fully vaccinated employees from the mandatory testing requirements after close contact.

  • If all employees in a room are vaccinated, no masks are required.

  • If an employee is alone in a room, a mask is not required.


Cal/OSHA continues to offer resources and an updated FAQ page for questions on the ETS.

Scott Rhymes
The Author
Scott Rhymes

Director of Risk Control Services, Newfront (Moderator)

As Newfront's Senior Risk Control Consultant, Scott provides risk control and safety consulting services, crafting and designing programs to lower the total cost of risk for Newfront's clients. Focusing on the overall safety systems and culture, Scott partners with clients to increase safety awareness and reduce occupational exposures. Scott is a regular guest speaker at local industry group meetings and university certificate programs.

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