L&I Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19

This information is current as of April 21, 2022

Masks are no longer required for most workers, however, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency and a recognized workplace hazard. Employers must continue to ensure a safe workplace.

Basic Requirements for All Workplaces

At a minimum, all employers must do the following:

  • Keep workers known or suspected to have COVID-19 from working around others by following appropriate isolation or quarantine guidance as outlined by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
  • Provide hand washing facilities and supplies, and regularly clean and sanitize surfaces.
  • Educate workers about COVID-19 prevention in the language they understand best.
  • Provide written notice of potential COVID-19 exposure within one business day to all workers, and the employers of subcontracted workers, who were at the same work site as a person who tested positive (without disclosing the person’s identity).
  • Report COVID-19 outbreaks to L&I within one business day when they involve 10 or more workers at a workplace or job site with more than 50 workers.
  • Address COVID-19 notification, reporting, and prevention measures in the employer’s workplace-specific, written Accident Prevention Program or equivalent safety program.
  • Allow workers to voluntarily wear masks (respirators, medical procedure masks, or cloth face coverings) and personal protective equipment (PPE) as long as it doesn’t create a safety or security issue.

Assessing COVID-19 Hazards

Employers must continue to assess COVID-19 hazards in their workplaces, because the level of hazards may change. This depends on the amount of disease in the community, how close workers are to others, whether the worker or others they interact with are vaccinated, and ventilation.

When COVID-19 hazards change, employers may need to adjust their prevention measures.

Where Masks Are Still Required

In addition to the requirements outlined above, masks are still required for all workers:

  • In hospitals, dentist offices, medical facilities, and other health care settings.
  • In long-term care settings, including home care, home health and home hospice.
  • In locations required by federal law.
  • In correctional facilities.
  • When following quarantine or isolation period guidelines for wearing a “well-fitting mask” per the DOH or the employer’s local health agency.
  • When their employer chooses to require mask use.

For workers providing care to an individual known or suspected to have COVID-19, fit-tested and NIOSH-approved respirators are required when working within six feet.

When respirators are required for protection against COVID-19, so is a written respirator program.

Additional Worker Protections

The level of COVID-19 hazards may change, and continued assessment is required to determine whether further precautions are needed. Based on a hazard assessment, the following prevention measures may assist employers:

  • Support vaccinations for workers. Being vaccinated significantly reduces the risk for severe illness.
  • Continue wearing masks or respirators, which are effective at reducing transmission. Medical procedure masks are a better choice than cloth face coverings. A properly fitting respirator provides the most protection. This is especially important for those at increased risk for severe disease and for workers in certain high-risk situations.
  • Physically distance workers from others, especially when the workforce is unvaccinated or when ventilation is poor. Physical barriers may also be used as sneeze guards or to augment physical distancing.
  • Maximize fresh air and air filtration settings on HVAC systems, and improve filtration in areas with poor ventilation.

Verifying Worker Vaccination Status

For workplaces where vaccinations are required, such as healthcare settings and schools, the employer must verify workers’ vaccination status.

Reasonable Accommodation and Discrimination

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must ensure workplaces remain safe and healthy for all, including workers with medical issues or disabilities.

Additionally, the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act protects high-risk workers from being discharged, permanently replaced, or discriminated against in the workplace for seeking accommodation from exposure to an infectious or contagious disease during a public health emergency. This law is administered by L&I and currently applies to accommodations related to COVID-19.

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