Employer Review: Virginia's New Emergency Temporary Standard
By now, as a business owner you are likely aware of the Emergency Standard that went into effect Monday, July 27, 2020 in the state of Virginia to combat the spread of COVID-19. Virginia was the first state in the nation to adopt mandatory standards, quickly followed by California.
Part of the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program (VOSH), the Standard mandates requirements for all employers in the Commonwealth of Virginia that must be complied with or face the possibility of paying a fine for non-compliance. Historically, the federal OSHA regulations in 29 CFR Part 1910 requires all employers to provide their employees a workplace that is free from hazard. This Emergency Standard expands the OSHA requirement and current VOSH standards in effect and specifically addresses the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that causes COVID-19.
So, as a Virginia business owner, what does this mean for you?
The Standard is quite lengthy (the document is 47 pages long) and is divided into subsections:
- 16VAC25-220-10 Purpose, Scope, and Applicability
- 16VAC25-220-20 Effective and Expiration Dates
- 16VAC25-220-30 Definitions
- 16VAC25-220-40 Mandatory Requirements for All Employers
- 16VAC25-220-50 Requirements for Hazards Classified as Very High or High Exposure Risk
- 16VAC25-220-60 Requirements for Hazards Classified as Medium Exposure Risk
- 16VAC25-220-70 Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
- 16VAC25-220-80 Training
- 16VAC25-220-90 Discrimination Against an Employee for Exercising Rights under this Standard is Prohibited
5 Takeaways for Employers on the New Virginia Emergency Standard
While it is important to familiarize yourself with the entire document, here are five takeaways to consider as you develop your Action Plan for Compliance:
- All employers are required to assess and rate their workplace for hazards and job tasks that can potentially expose employees to COVID-19. The Standard has a rating scale of Very High, High, Medium, and Low. The Standard has examples of job tasks for each rating such as:
- Very High - Dental offices that utilize aerosol-generating procedures
- High – Health care delivery such as skilled nursing services and assisted living care
- Medium – Transportation of passengers by air, land, and water
- Low – Office building settings
- All employers regardless of their level of risk are required to develop and implement policies for employees to report when they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
- All employers shall ensure that sick leave policies are flexible including adherence to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
- All employers are required to develop and implement policies for employees known or suspected to be infected with the virus for returning to work by using either a symptom-based or test-based strategy.
- All employers are required to:
- Observe physical distancing
- Close or control access to common areas such as break rooms and lunchrooms
- Provide for cleaning and disinfecting of the common areas at regular intervals throughout the day
- Ensure hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer are available to employees
- If multiple employees are occupying a vehicle for work purposes, ensure compliance with personal protective equipment standards applicable to their industry are enforced.
The Standard is quite comprehensive and as you would suspect, the requirements of employers with hazards or job tasks classified as very high, high, or medium (employers of 11 or more employees) are more extensive. For instance, they are required to implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan.
Many businesses have established a COVID-19 Response Task Force within their companies to address and plan their response to the pandemic. Compliance with this Emergency Standard should be top of mind and on the agenda for your next Task Force meeting.