Following publication on July 27 in the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) temporary standard with the intent of preventing the spread of COVID-19 is now in effect until January 27, 2021. This standard was developed following four separate day-long emergency electronic meetings by the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and applies to all employers in Virginia, including County Governments.
As reported in a previous County Connections, the temporary standard generated numerous public comments and set requirements that counties need to implement in order to ensure compliance. All employers will be required to classify the risk for each of their employee positions as “very high,” “high,” “medium,” or “lower” depending on the level of risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and set forth controls, processes, and training for staff in compliance with the standard. It is possible for a single organization to employ staff with different job hazard classifications.
Generally speaking, under the Standard’s language, counties will have employees that fall into the “lower,” “medium,” and “high” hazard classifications. Office personnel that are able to work without close contact within 6 feet of others are considered to be “lower” risk. Positions that require contact within 6 feet of others, such as interacting with the public across a counter, are “medium” risk. Law enforcement, fire, and rescue positions are classified as “high” risk if they are expected to interact within 6 feet or provide healthcare services to anyone known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As the hazard classification increases, so too do the requirements to provide protections to employees.
Counties are required to implement the following:
- An exposure assessment and determination system
- A return to work policy for employees who have tested positive for COVID-19
- Ensure physical distancing
- Control access to common areas
- Provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) under certain conditions
- Provide sanitization and disinfectant agents
- For Medium Risk and Higher, provide ensure that air handling systems must be maintained per manufacturer’s guidelines and comply with ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE standards
- Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response (IDPR) Plan if employing employees with “very high” or “high” exposure classifications or 11 or more “medium” employee classifications
- Provide additional training to employees
Violations of the new standards can result in civil penalties and fines as prescribed in state law (see § 40.1-49.4 of Code of Virginia). As these are temporary emergency standards, they will expire six months from the date of publication, or upon the expiration of the governor’s state of emergency declaration, or the enactment of a permanent standard.
It is important to note that while this standard is temporary, DOLI has proposed a “permanent” standard to take effect “no later than January 27, 2021.” A 60-day comment period for the permanent standard commenced July 27, 2020 and expires September 25, 2020. For more information and to submit comments online go to Virginia Townhall General Notice.
More information, including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), training materials, and hazard assessments can be found on DOLI’s Outreach, Education, and Training for the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, 16VAC25-220 website here.