Masks off but COVID employee safety measures remain

Mar 10, 2022
Written by WR Communications

Employers may be tempted to lift their pandemic-related safety requirements as federal and state authorities ease masking and other COVID-19 rules. Masks off, however, does not mean employers’ responsibility to maintain COVID prevention measures is off the table, especially when the state of emergency is still in place.

Employers need to stay vigilant on the following measures:

  • WAC 296-800-110 requires employers to provide a safe workplace, free from known hazards that likely cause death or serious physical harm to employees, so employers must assess the probability of COVID infection among their employees.
  • The Health Emergency Labor Standard Act (HELSA) enacted in 2021 established reporting and notification requirements. It also requires personal protective equipment usage. These rules (WAC 296-62-600 and 296-62-601) are applicable until Washington lifts its state of emergency.
  • The COVID-19 continues to be recognized as a potential workplace hazard, and safety training documentation is required. To help with new hires, or as a refresher, employees can take the free SAFEME COVID training in English or Spanish and print the certificate of completion for your records.
  • IMPORTANT: In recent Safety Compliance inspections, employers have been asked to provide evidence of employee COVID training.

We recommend keeping a supply of KN95 masks, cleaning supplies, and other related materials on hand in case of a future COVID variant surge or similar socially transmittable disease. Stay up to date on local health department requirements and check the site for updates weekly.

State and local workplace safety rules evolve frequently, and employers should regularly communicate these changes to employees.

WR will update its members if the Department of Health or Labor & Industries provides any additional guidance.

Rick Means, Director of Safety and Education, is available to help members with safety. Contact Rick at 360-943-9198, Ext. 118 or [email protected].