Earlier this month, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration published permanent rules addressing Covid-19 health and safety guidelines in workplaces across the state, including wearing masks.
Originally introduced as temporary, the rule established various health and safety requirements such as the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitation, risk assessments, infection notification processes, medical removal, ventilation requirements, employee training, among other requirements.
The temporary rule expired on May 4 and has now been replaced by this new permanent rule.
There were also some minor additions to the permanent rule, including a requirement that employers with more than 10 workers attest that they are running their ventilation system in accordance with the rule.
Written notification of return rights for when employees must quarantine is also required now. This rule also encourages employers to provide details about leave options.
The new rule did not make any changes to the face mask or physical distancing requirements established in the temporary rule, nor did it make any distinctions between the application of the rules between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.
Republican lawmakers, including Canby’s Christine Drazan, have criticized OSHA for implementing the new rule with no specified end date, though the agency says it will be evaluated every two months beginning in July.
An effort by Drazan and other Republicans in the Legislature to delay the rule failed, as OSHA officials reportedly declined to attend a scheduled hearing to review their proposal.
“This is the opposite direction of where we should be headed,” Drazan said in a press release. “In light of vaccines, improved PPE supply for hospitals and more, we should be giving businesses more breathing room.
“Instead, this administrative body has demonstrated that it does not believe it is accountable to the people of Oregon.”
Oregon OSHA officials have repeatedly said they do not want or intend to make the mask mandate truly permanent. Rather, a quirk of Oregon law forces the agency to either let the emergency order expire after 180 days — May 4, 2021 — or make it permanent.
Officials say the “permanent” mandate would then be repealed once the pandemic has passed and masks are no longer necessary.
Nevertheless, the permanent rule appears to be deeply unpopular among many in the general public, with Oregon OSHA receiving more than 5,000 comments from the public about this proposal — most of them negative.
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