On August 17, 2020, Oregon become one of the first states in the country to propose formal rules for the workplace related to COVID-19. Oregon OSHA is currently accepting public comment through August 31, 2020, on the draft temporary rules. The temporary rules would go into effect no later than September 14, 2020, and be effective for 180 days. A copy of the proposed temporary rule from Oregon OSHA can be found here.
The proposed rule is broken down into three different categories. The first category of requirements would apply to all workplaces in the state. The second category of requirements applies to those workplaces that have “close-in” work activities. Workplaces are considered to have “close-in” work activities if an employee is required to be within 6 feet of another individual for 15 minutes or longer and includes the direct touching of another individual. Examples of “close-in” work activities provided by Oregon OSHA include tattooing, massage, hair dressers, barbers, and make-up artists. The third category of requirements applies to health care activities that involve direct patient care.
Many of the requirements proposed by Oregon OSHA should not come as a surprise to employers because they largely reflect the guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and CDC. They include requirements for physical distancing, use of physical barriers and face coverings, and sanitation policies and procedures. However, the proposed rule also requires employers to post Oregon OSHA’s “COVID-19 Hazards Poster,” notify employees of physical distancing requirements and how they’ll be implemented, and provide opportunities for workers to offer feedback. For workplaces with 25 or more employees, the employer must also designate a social distancing officer to help identify and enforce the policies and procedures outlined in the proposed rule.
Lastly, the proposed rule also requires employers to address the medical removal of employees who have COVID-19 symptoms, are undergoing testing, or otherwise require isolation. The rule requires employers to reassign employees to duties that do not involve in-person contact if that employee’s medical provider or a public health official recommends isolation or quarantine. If reassignment is not possible, the employer must provide the employee with leave, either under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) or as paid “reassignment” leave. Notably, the medical removal requirements would apply regardless of whether the exposure occurs while the employee is at work.
The proposed rule is only the first draft, and we expect some changes before it becomes final after the public comment period has ended. If you would like to submit comments to Oregon OSHA regarding the proposed rule, they can be emailed to: email@example.com. Comments are being accepted through August 31, 2020.