A box of masks

Gov. Kate Brown announced that all Oregon residents are required to wear masks or face coverings in indoor public spaces.

Some local businesses have claimed patient privacy laws and constitutional protections exempted them from enforcing Gov. Kate Brown’s order to wear masks indoors, but Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration shared facts on Friday about what they said was misinformation about the mandate and a business owner’s responsibility.

Oregon OSHA Public Information Officer Aaron Corvin said face coverings are now required in outdoor public spaces when physical distancing is impossible and in all indoor public areas.

OSHA guidelines say a business needs to post a sign regarding face masks and enforce the requirements for people who enter. A person with a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing one can ask for accommodation.

He said a business must post signs, provide face coverings and enforce the regulations, including providing accommodations for people with a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask without putting other people at risk.

Typically, according to a memo from OSHA, these accommodations will not allow individuals to enter a business without required face coverings.

According to OSHA guidance, when people come into a business without a mask, it is not to be assumed they have a medical condition.

“Businesses have to take the person’s word in these instances and should not inquire further about the medical condition or ask for proof,” Corvin said. “However, in such situations, businesses have to provide reasonable accommodations to receive the service without putting workers or other customers at risk. They cannot simply let a person who cannot wear a face covering enter without one and without regard to the safety of others.”

OSHA’s guidance says it will not cite or shutdown a business if someone were to enter their business without a mask.

The agency would, however, be required to contact the business to let the owner know what they should be doing to enforce the mandate. This, according to the guidance, gives businesses an opportunity to let OSHA know what they are doing as well.

OSHA’s guidance says business owners do not need to be “militant” and refuse people from entering their stores and shops without a mask. But, the guidance says, if customers refuse to wear a face covering, OSHA does expect them to politely refuse service.

Corvin said penalties to businesses that fail to enforce the order vary depending on the factors involved.

“Under our penalty rules, a serious violation that is not a willful (i.e., intentional or purposeful disregard for requirements) carries a minimum penalty of $100 and a maximum of $12,675,” he said.

He said a willful violation carries a minimum penalty of $8,900 and a maximum of $126,749.


Steven Mitchell is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at steven@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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