Employers wondering whether Virginia is the new California just got their answer: California has some catching up to do.
In a split vote, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (which includes author Courtney Malveaux) passed first-in-the-nation standards to address COVID-19 in workplaces. Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH), the state’s version of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), now will enforce a standard that mandates — and in some instances exceeds — guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA. The new standard covers most private employers in Virginia, as well as all state and local employees.
In addition to CDC and OSHA guidelines, the standard includes provisions that require employers to:
The standard protects employees who raise reasonable concerns about infection control to print, online, social or other media. It also requires building and facility owners to report positive COVID-19 tests to employer tenants. The standard exempts private and public institutions of higher education with re-opening plans certified by the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and public school divisions that submit re-opening plans to the Virginia Department of Education. No such exemptions are provided to private elementary and secondary schools.
The standard also implements provisions that echo CDC and OSHA guidance, including requirements to:
The emergency standard will take effect upon publication at the end of July and is set to expire within six months or upon expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency or the enactment of a permanent standard.
Virginia is a “State Plan” state that operates its own occupational safety and health program under an OSHA grant. There are twenty-seven other “State Plan” states that might also consider similar COVID-19 standards as well.