Recently, Oregon OSHA formally proposed a “permanent” COVID-19 rule to replace the temporary rule, which is set to expire May 4, 2021. Oregon OSHA’s rule making authority does not allow a temporary rule to be extended; therefore, OSHA must adopt a permanent rule to keep its COVID-19 protections in place. However, Oregon OSHA has publicly stated it expects to repeal the permanent rule, once it is no longer needed to address the coronavirus pandemic.
As with the temporary rule, which took effect last Nov. 16, the proposed permanent rule maintains requirements such as physical distancing; use of face coverings; regular sanitation; employee notification and training; maximization and maintenance of existing ventilation systems; and formal exposure risk assessment and infection control planning. The proposed permanent rule would allow employers to rely upon the risk assessments, infection control plans and infection control training already completed. However, the permanent rule would add measures and strengthen provisions in certain areas. Those proposed changes include:
Requiring employers consider alternatives to transporting multiple people in a single vehicle, although such transportation would not be prohibited.
Modifying the ventilation measures so that employers with more than 10 employees – and that have existing ventilation systems – must certify in writing that they are running their systems in line with current requirements. The proposed rule does not require the purchase or installation of new ventilation systems.
Requiring employers to provide written notification to employees of their rights to return to work when employees must quarantine.
Requiring employers to cooperate with public health authorities that ask to arrange for vaccination in the workplace. This proposed requirement is similar to the temporary rule’s provision mandating cooperation with public health officials, if COVID-19 testing in the workplace is necessary.
Requiring health care employers to provide respirators to employees working with known or suspected COVID-19-positive patients, unless they demonstrate there is a genuine shortage that they are working to resolve.
The proposed permanent rule also strengthens the language discouraging the use of face shields, which have been shown to be less effective than masks or facial coverings, although such devices would remain an option for source control.
Oregon OSHA is currently accepting comments on the proposed changes to the COVID-19 regulations. The comment period will close on April 2nd. If you have any questions about compliance with these new standards in your workplace, please contact me at or 503-595-2136.