Washington is getting ready for reopening!

What will that mean for workers?

NOTE: This blog was updated with the most recent information on June 30th. For more information, employers can check L&I’s requirements and guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in the Workplace.

As more and more Washingtonians get the COVID-19 vaccine, we’re getting closer to returning to normal life. Soon, businesses will be able to resume operating at their full capacities again. This is welcome news for Washington businesses, workers, and customers.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. As a result, many businesses dropped their mask requirements for customers. But what about their workers?

To help workers better understand these changes, we connected with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). L&I is the state agency that establishes requirements for employers. They protect workers by making sure that employers keep their workplaces safe and healthy.

We’re making great progress towards ending the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. And there are also things employers must continue to do to keep workers as safe as possible. Employers must keep their workplaces safe and protect their workers from COVID-19. This means employers need to ensure that workers are vaccinated before they can stop following COVID-19 safety measures.

Here are some highlights of the rules for workplaces:

✔️ As of June 30, fully vaccinated workers do not have to wear a mask at work unless their employer still requires it.

✔️ ️️Employers must confirm workers are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and be able to show the process used for verification before ending mask requirements. Employers can confirm this by:

  • having workers sign a document — electronically or on paper — confirming their vaccination status.
  • asking workers to show proof of vaccination. Proof can be a vaccine record card, a photo of a vaccine record card, documentation from a health care provider, or a certificate of vaccination. Check out our fact sheet and blog about vaccination cards to learn more.

✔️ Some workers may not be fully vaccinated, or their vaccination status is unknown. Employers must continue to require masks for these workers. Employers must assess the level of hazard to determine if other precautions such as physical distancing or a more protective mask may also be needed.

✔️ Masks are still required in some settings. This includes health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools where students are present or expected to be present and public transportation. People who work in these settings still need to wear a mask, even if they are fully vaccinated.

✔️ Workers have the right to keep wearing masks if they want, even if they are vaccinated.

*Note: Employers can require employees to be vaccinated.

(The above rules are state minimums. Local health departments may have different rules for masking and physical distancing. Employers should check with their local health departments to ensure compliance with all local requirements.)

It’s important to know that employers can also require their employees to be vaccinated. For workers who have medical exemptions, employers can ask workers for a note from their health care provider. But workers do not need to show proof or documentation for religious exemptions.

L&I’s Brian Haight recently talked about where we are with workplace safety during COVID-19. You can hear what he has to say on tvw.org, starting at the 30 minute and 30 second mark (English only).

Employers and workers have already done a tremendous amount to keep everyone safe on the job. And that’s made a huge difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19! But the pandemic isn’t over yet. We need to continue following COVID-19 safety measures as long as this pandemic persists. Together we can keep our workers safe!

For updated information, employers can check L&I’s requirements and guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in the Workplace.

Have questions or concerns about workplace safety and health? Contact L&I’s bilingual safety and health specialists at 1–800–432–7233.

Check the state’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date and reliable info at coronavirus.wa.gov.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 12 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit CovidVaccineWA.org and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.

WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who tested positive for COVID-19. Add WA Notify to your phone today: WANotify.org

Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state may be found at our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

Public Health Connection

From the Washington State Department of Health