Virginia first state nationally to create workplace regulations for COVID-19

July 15, 2020

After four separate day-long emergency electronic meetings, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board adopted on July 15 regulations and standards that employers (including Virginia Counties) must adhere to when addressing worker safety for COVID-19. The Northam administration (per E.O. 63) directed the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry

“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” said Governor Northam in a press release. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”(DOLI) to promulgate emergency regulations and standards to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

As reported in a previous County Connections, public comment was due on Monday, June 22. DOLI received 3,366 comments during the 10-day comment period.

VACo notes that the draft standards include the following requirements that counties will need to implement:

  • Classification of all employees as “very high,” “high,” “medium,” or “lower” risk, based on the potential level of exposure in performing their duties;
  • Development and implementation of an “Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan” per CDC Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  • Designation of a person responsible for implementing the response plan;
  • Provision of respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (PPE) for multiple employees occupying the same vehicle for work purposes, and for employees whose work or the work area does not allow them to observe physical distancing requirements.
  • Screening of all “very high,” “high” and “medium” classified employees for COVID-19 symptoms prior to each work shift;
  • Installation of physical barriers (such as clear plastic sneeze guards) to mitigate the spread of the virus; and
  • At a minimum, the cleaning and disinfecting of all common spaces (including bathrooms) at the end of each work shift.

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). The new standards will become effective upon publication (scheduled for the week of July 27) in a Richmond area newspaper. For more information go to the Safety and Health Codes Board Electronic Emergency Meeting website.

VACo Contacts: Joe Lerch, AICP and Phyllis Errico, Esq., CAE

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