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Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Establishes New Regulations for Workplace Safety

Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Establishes New Regulations for Workplace Safety
Sticky Article Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Establishes New Regulations for Workplace Safety
Tagged in: Hampton Roads
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Establishes New Regulations for Workplace Safety
New emergency regulations create additional requirements for Virginia's employers.

The Safety and Health Codes Board of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has established new emergency regulations that create additional requirements for Virginia employers related to workplace safety due to COVID-19. Directed by Governor Northam, the Board voted on these regulations and were tasked with considering over 3,300 public comments that were offered during a brief 10-day window. Over the last three weeks, the Board has met several times to discuss the proposed regulation, review the public comments, and develop necessary amendments. On July 15th, these discussions concluded, and the Board submitted the final emergency regulation for implementation.

The Hampton Roads Chamber was fortunate to have Courtney Malveaux, Principal at Jackson Lewis P.C. and a member of the Safety and Health Codes Board of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry representing industry, talk on the matter.  Mr. Malveaux provided a detailed PowerPoint presentation where he provided insight on these new regulations and how to make sure businesses comply with the standard. 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: 

  • Provide flexible sick-leave policies, telework and staggered shifts when feasible;
  • Provide both handwashing stations and hand sanitizer when feasible;
  • Assess risk levels of employers and suppliers before entry;
  • Notify the Virginia Department of Health of positive COVID-19 tests;
  • Notify VOSH of three or more positive COVID-19 tests within a two-week period;
  • Assess hazard levels of all job tasks;
  • Provide COVID-19 training of all employees within 30 days (except for low-hazard places of employment);
  • Prepare infectious disease preparedness and response plans within 60 days;
  • Post or present agency-prepared COVID-19 information to all employees; and
  • Maintain air handling systems in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.

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:

  • Place requirements on workplaces based on hazard levels (i.e., “very high,” “high,” “medium,” and “low”);
  • Screen employees prior to entry to work;
  • Establish requirements for employees with COVID-19 positive tests and symptoms before returning to work;
  • Require social distancing or, when social distancing is not possible, respiratory protection; and
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used areas and equipment.

The emergency standard took effect on July 27th 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 consider similar COVID-19 standards as well.

If you have questions or need assistance in an OSHA or VOSH matter, please reach out to a member of the Jackson Lewis Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group.

View webinar PowerPoint.

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