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Washington State News

Keeping Workers Safe from COVID-19 Doesn’t End with Washington’s Emergency Orders

TUMWATER — Washington state COVID-19 emergency orders put in place by Gov. Jay Inslee during the pandemic end Monday. Still, coronavirus remains a workplace hazard and employers must continue taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Among the general safety requirements and guidance still in place:

  • Every employer must assess their specific workplace for COVID-19 hazards and take steps to prevent employee exposure based on that assessment.
  • Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 should be kept out of the workplace for at least five days per Washington State Department of Health guidance.
  • Healthcare workers and others providing care to or working near someone known or suspected to have COVID-19 should wear appropriate, fit-tested, and NIOSH-approved respirators.

Complete Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) requirements and guidance are available online.

Apart from L&I’s general requirements, rules in place under the state Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) also remain in effect as long as there’s a national COVID state of emergency. The law prevents employers from retaliating against high-risk employees who seek accommodation from exposure.

HELSA also requires employers to notify their workers when exposure to COVID-19 happens and to report outbreaks to L&I at any company with more than 50 workers. There’s additional information about HELSA on L&I’s website.

A separate law protects employees who choose to purchase and voluntarily wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like masks.

The Washington State Secretary of Health’s Face Covering Order remains in place for health care and long-term care settings, as well as correctional and jail facilities except in areas where community transmission is low. Some local health jurisdictions may also require masks.