On July 15, 2020, Virginia became the first state in the country to issue a COVID-19 workplace safety regulation as the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board approved an Emergency Temporary Standard. The Standard, which applies to all Virginia employers within the jurisdiction of the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program, will remain in effect for a period of six months from its effective date or when superseded by a permanent standard. While the final text is still subject to change, the key provisions are summarized below.
- Notice to Employees of Positive Employee Tests. When an employer is notified of a positive employee test for COVID-19, the employer must provide notice to its employees and others of their possible exposure within 24 hours of discovery.
- Notice to the State of Positive Employee Tests. An employer must notify the Virginia Department of Health within 24 hours of the discovery of a positive employee test and shall notify the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry within 24 hours of the discovery of three or more employees present at the workplace within a 14-day period testing positive for COVID-19.
- Employee Return to Work. Employees who are suspected or known COVID-19 cases may not return to the workplace until either: (a) at least 3 days have passed since the employee’s recovery and at least 10 days have passed since the employee’s symptoms first appeared (symptom-based strategy); or (b) employee’s recovery plus two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart (test-based strategy).
- General Workplace Policies. Employers must exercise control over common spaces, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of spaces; provide employees with access to soap and water and hand sanitizer; and supply respiratory protection and personal protective equipment if other methods do not suffice.
- Additional Requirements for High-Risk Employers. Employers with job tasks whose exposure risk is classified as “very high” (those who handle COVID-19 virus specimens), “high” (those who will be within six feet of known or suspected cases, such as health care workers), or “medium” (those who will have more than minimal occupational contact within six feet of possible cases, such as workers employed in meat-processing plants, restaurants, bars, commercial transportation, schools, salons, theaters, etc.) must comply with additional requirements, including ensuring appropriate air-handling systems, exercising administrative and work practice controls, and providing personal protective equipment as required.
- Preparedness and Response Plan. Employers with job tasks classified as “very high”, “high”, or “medium” exposure risk must also develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan and designate a person responsible for the plan who is knowledgeable about infection control principles as they apply to the facility.
- Employee Training. Employers with job tasks classified as “very high”, “high”, or “medium” exposure risk must conduct training of all employees at the facility on, among other things, the requirements of the new Standard, the symptoms and transmission methods of COVID-19, overall safe and healthy work practices, and the employer’s preparedness and response plan.
Note: This publication is distributed with the understanding that the author, publisher and distributor of this publication and/or any linked publication are not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters and, accordingly, assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.