Virginia recently became the first state to issue permanent COVID-19 workplace safety standards.
In effect since Jan. 27, the standards come from the state’s Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board. Generally, the mandates include:
- Appropriate personal protective equipment
- Infectious disease preparedness and response plans
- Hazard communications in workplaces
- Record keeping
- Social distancing
The requirements will remain in effect through the duration of the pandemic. Virginia officials will meet within two weeks of the expiration of Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order to determine whether the standards should be extended.
Virginia COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standards
Temporary COVID-19 workplace safety standards were adopted in Virginia last July, and the permanent standards “closely align” with those, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” Northam said in the release. “I am grateful to the many businesses and organizations who have been with us throughout this process and continue to take the necessary steps to operate safely. These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers, and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”
The standards apply to all employers in Virginia. A 58-page document lays out the specifics of the requirements. At a high level, the standards include:
- Requiring all public-facing employees to wear a mask
- Ensuring easy access to hand sanitizer
- Requiring regular cleaning of common work areas
- Training employees on COVID-19 safety protocols
- Developing infectious disease preparedness and response plans
- Following guidelines for returning to work
- Communicating about employees who test positive
The full text of the standards provides further guidance, including industry-specific information, definitions, notification requirements, what happens when PPE is unavailable, and more.
COVID-19 Complaints and Enforcement
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is charged with enforcing the standards.
Since workplace safety standards have been in place, officials have received 13,000 complaints about violations. Typically, the department works with employers to help them with compliance issues, but 100 of the complaints required an investigation and 27 employers were cited.
“These scientifically based standards will help keep Virginia’s workers and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Ray Davenport said in a statement. “We look forward to working together with the business and labor communities to achieve compliance and safe workplaces across the Commonwealth.”
Virginia has further resources for employers, including training guidance and templates for developing an infectious disease preparedness and response plan.
From hero and hazard pay to occupancy restrictions and training requirements, employers still have a number of COVID-19 compliance issues to monitor moving forward.
Though the rollout of the vaccine and other efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have offered a brighter outlook of late, there will likely be months of wading through state and local regulations for large employers.
Employers with locations in jurisdictions across the U.S. should review local orders and develop compliance plans moving forward.