Virginia Approves Permanent COVID-19 Safety and Health Standards
Update Applicable to:
Employers operating within the state of Virginia.
On January 12, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board voted 9-4 to approve a permanent safety and health standard (Permanent Standard) requiring employers to take steps to protect workers from Coronavirus (COVID-19).
What are the details?
The Permanent Standard largely mirrors the Temporary Standard that Virginia has previously passed and continues to require employers to, among other things:
- Group jobs into categories of high, medium, and low exposure risk;
- Inform employees of the methods of self-monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19;
- Develop and implement policies for employees with symptoms consistent with COVID-19;
- Provide notice to specific individuals who have had contact with infected employees;
- Develop and implement policies and procedures for employees to return to work after testing positive for COVID-19;
- Create a workplace infection protection program if they have job tasks with risks classified as “very high” or “high,” and/or if they have 11 or more employees with job tasks classified as “medium”;
- Train workers on COVID-19 and its infection protection program if the employer has job tasks with risks classified as “very high” or “high”; and
Additional important changes have been made to the permanent standard:
- Using the phrase “close contact” (defined as being within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more in a day) rather than just “six feet” when discussing COVID-19 exposure.
- Explaining face shields are not considered a face covering and can be worn only if a face covering cannot be worn due to a medical condition.
- Scaling back the requirement to report all positive COVID-19 cases to the Virginia Department of Health. Instead, employers will be required only to report to the Virginia Department of Health “outbreaks” of two or more cases of their own employees in the workplace within a 14-day period.
- Changing the time-based return-to-work requirement from 10 days with three symptom-free days to 10 days with only one symptom-free day, to be consistent with CDC requirements.
- Eliminating the requirement for employers to comply with respiratory standards when employees travel together in work vehicles due to shortages of N-95 and other respirators.
- Explaining that Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration will not bring an enforcement action against employers making good faith efforts to secure personal protective equipment in short supply.
- The Permanent Standard also requires employers with hazards or job-task risks classified as “very high,” “high,” or “medium” to implement certain ventilation controls to air-handling systems under the employer’s control including increasing airflow supply to occupied spaces (provided it does not create a greater hazard), routinely clean and inspect filters, and generate “clean-to-less clean” air movements by reevaluating the positioning of supply and exhaust air diffusers and/or dampers.
You can read more about the safety standard here.
The final permanent safety standard can be found here.
What do employers need to do?
Virginia employers should review the above information and linked resource to help determine the need for any changes to workplace policies.