Per Governor's Executive Order 20-81, on July 25, 2020, Minnesotans are required to wear a face covering in all public indoor spaces and businesses––subject to certain exceptions. Governor Walz explains this decision is inline with the CDC’s explanation that face coverings are most effective when worn by all individuals in a public setting. This “face mask mandate” will remain in effect until the legislature deems the peacetime emergency over.
As one can imagine, this will impact all sectors of our economy. Executive Order 20-81 requires face coverings to be worn when specifically required by the applicable industry guidance available at Stay Safe Minnesota. In an effort to promote compliance for the construction industry, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (“MDLI”) has released, “Guidance for Construction Sector.” Here are some highlights as presented by the MDLI:
- Face coverings must be worn outdoors by workers where social distancing cannot be maintained.
- If workers are unable to wear face coverings due to a medical/physical limitation, or mental health condition, alternative protections must be implemented.
- The use of face coverings is not a substitute for social distancing where social distancing can be achieved and/or maintained.
- All workers must be trained on the new face covering requirements.
- All COVID-19 Preparedness Plans must be updated to include the face covering requirements.
Knowing face coverings are not conducive to every situation, the Executive Order provides for some exemptions and we have received a number of questions on these various exemptions. Our COVID-19 Task Force here at Arthur, Chapman has been answering questions primarily on two exemptions. The first deals more with working in the office and the second for working in the field.
The first exemption is found under paragraph 10 of the Executive Order. This section describes circumstances when mandatory face coverings may be temporarily removed:
When an individual is alone, including when alone in an office, a room, a cubicle with walls that are higher than face level when social distancing is maintained, a vehicle, or the cab of heavy equipment or machinery, or an enclosed work area. In such situations, the individual should still carry a face covering to be prepared for person-to-person interactions and to be used when no longer alone.
For example, if you are working alone in your office, no mask is required. However, when walking through the office halls or visitors come to your private office, a mask must be worn.
The second exemption promotes a golden rule for any Employer before and during a pandemic: make sure all your workers are safe. Under paragraph 8 of the Executive Order, entitled Exempt Individuals, it states: a person is exempt from wearing a face covering when, “wearing a face covering would create a safety hazard to the person or others as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.” This broad language gives businesses the ability to consult their safety guidelines and ensure no worker is faced with a job hazard due to the mask mandate.
More information about the face covering requirements and exemptions can be found on the following MDLI websites: Face Covering Requirements and Recommendations under Executive Order 20-81 and Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings.
As always, should you have any questions regarding the new requirements or need assistance in updating your businesses’ COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, the attorneys at Arthur Chapman are here to help. The firm has assisted numerous businesses and organizations draft Preparedness Plans. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm regarding any of your construction law concerns or reach out to our COVID-19 Task Force.