The Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board enacted a temporary workplace safety standard in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Temporary Standard is effective July 27, 2020.
Below is an overview of the standard. To read the standard in full, click here.
ASSESSMENT AND CLASSIFICATION:
Employers must conduct an assessment of the workplace for hazards and job tasks that potentially expose employees to COVID-19. Employers must also classify each job task according to the risk of exposure.
Employers must notify employees of the methods of exposure and transmission of COVID-19 and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure or are experiencing signs of an oncoming illness.
Employers must develop and implement policies and procedures for employees to report when they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Generally, if an employer receives a report of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, the employer has 24 hours to notify individuals who may have been exposed, the building or facility owner, and the Virginia Department of Health. When notifying the building or facility owner and other individuals, employers must keep the identity of the infected person confidential. Employers must also notify the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) within 24 hours of the discovery of three or more employees within a 14-day period testing positive for COVID-19.
RETURN TO WORK (INFECTED EMPLOYEES):
Employers must develop and implement policies and procedures for employees with known or suspected cases of COVID-19 and may not permit employees known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19 to report to, or remain at, the work site until they're cleared to return to work (using a symptom- or test-based strategy). A symptom-based approach excludes employees from the workplace until at least three days have passed since recovery and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared. A testing approach excludes infected employees until they have a negative COVID-19 test result. If an employer elects to require employees to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to work, the employer must pay for the tests.
Employers are not permitted to use anti-body testing when making return to work decisions.
Employers must ensure that employees observe physical distancing at all times and leverage verbal announcements, signage, or visual cues to promote physical distancing. Access to common areas, breakrooms, or lunchrooms must be closed or controlled.
Sanitation and Disinfecting:
Employees that interact with customers or other persons, must be provided with and immediately use supplies to clean and disinfect surfaces contacted during the interaction.
All common spaces, including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces and doors must, at a minimum, be cleaned and disinfected at the end of each shift. All shared tools, equipment, workspaces, and vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected prior to transfer from one employee to another. Employers must ensure that cleaning and disinfecting products are readily available to employees.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
When engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide PPE to their employees and ensure its proper use in accordance with VOSH laws, standards, and regulations. Employers must also ensure compliance with respiratory protection when the nature of an employee's work or work area doesn't allow physical distancing. When multiple employees are occupying a vehicle for work purposes, the employer must ensure compliance with respiratory protection and PPE standards applicable to its industry.
VERY HIGH AND HIGH RISK OF EXPOSURE:
The following requirements for employers with hazards or job tasks classified as "very high" or "high" exposure risk also apply:
- To the extent feasible, employers must install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where such barriers will aid in mitigating the spread of virus transmission.
- Prior to the start of each shift, prescreen or survey each covered employee to ensure they do not have signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
- Limit non-employee access to the workplace or restrict access to only certain areas to reduce the risk of exposure.
- Where feasible, postpone non-essential travel and implement telework, staggered shifts, phone and video conferencing, and curbside pickup.
- Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan (this requirement also applies to employers with hazards or job tasks classified as "medium" if the employer has 11 or more employees) by August 26, 2020. The plan must address the level(s) of risk associated with the hazards employees are exposed to, and the engineering, administrative, and PPE controls necessary to address those risks.
Examples of high and very high risks tasks include healthcare and mortuary services. Medium risk job tasks involve certain specialty work, like meat processing and commercial transportation, as well as tasks that involve frequent interaction with the public, like stores and restaurants. Traditional office work tasks are classified as lower risk.
Employers with hazards or job tasks classified as "very high," "high," or "medium exposure" risk must provide training to all employees working at the place of employment regardless of employee risk classification by September 25, 2020. Employers must prepare and maintain a written certification of training completed for each employee. Lower risk employers do not have to provide formal training but must distribute information to employees about hazards and characteristics of COVID-19.
Employers may not retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights under the standard, voluntarily providing and wearing their own PPE, or raising a reasonable concern about infection control.
The DOLI plans to provide supplemental materials on infectious disease preparedness and response plans, training, and more here.
Employers should review the standard in full as well as DOLI guidance to ensure their policies, procedures, and training comply. Please contact your dedicated service professional with any questions.