• Jackson Shields Yeiser


By Paula Jackson

August 16, 2021

On August 13, 2021, OSHA revised its guidance for most employers due to the Delta variant of COVID-19 and related CDC updates. OSHA now recommends that all persons, even those vaccinated, wear masks in indoor public settings if located in areas with a high or substantial risk of transmission of the virus.[1] In addition, OSHA specified that employees performing outdoor work could opt out of wearing masks unless another law requires them to be worn or the worker is at-risk (e.g., immunocompromised). Employees who cannot comply with these masking requirements because of a disability or religious belief may request an accommodation.[2]

Additionally, OSHA said that vaccinated persons could opt to wear masks in indoor public settings, even if they are not in an area where the level of transmission is high or substantial. For example, vaccinated employees may want to wear masks if they work close to others, are at-risk, or have a loved one who is at-risk or unvaccinated. Finally, OSHA indicated that employers should provide free masks or face coverings to workers who request them (or other PPE such as respirators as appropriate) and support all employees who wish to wear a mask.

Of course, OSHA acknowledged that some employers might have other requirements. For example, according to OSHA’s guidance, healthcare-related employers should continue to follow the Emergency Temporary Standard, and schools should continue to require masks for all who enter (including students, staff, and visitors) unless accommodations are required.

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[1] “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” Occupational Safety & Health Admin. (“OSHA”), https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework (updated August 13, 2021). The CDC has made data available regarding what areas are at high or substantial risk of transmission. See “COVID Data Tracker,” Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view (last checked Aug. 16, 2021). [2] “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework (citing “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, at https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws).

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