All Virginia employers subject to the jurisdiction of the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health ("VOSH") Program (i.e., practically all employers in Virginia) must comply with new workplace safety standards related to COVID-19. Known as the Emergency Temporary Standard ("Standard"), the new regulation requires employers to:
1. Conduct a Hazard Assessment
The hazard assessment evaluates job tasks based on their risk of exposure to COVID-19 based on a number of factors listed in the Standard. Similar tasks can be grouped together for classification purposes.
Employers then classify a given task based on its risk:
If the employer identifies at least "medium" risks of exposure, it must also certify in writing that it performed the Workplace Hazard Assessment.
2. Develop Workplace Policies and Standards Regarding COVID-19
The Standard requires employers to develop policies and procedures, in some cases in writing, for a variety of COVID-19 related situations. We recommend that all employers, regardless of risk, memorialize their policies in writing. Among the policies required include:
3. Notification Requirements
Employers must develop a system to receive positive reports of COVID-19 tests by "employees, subcontractors, contract employees and temporary employees present in the workplace in the 14 days prior to the positive test." Within 24 hours of discovery of a positive COVID-19 case, employers must notify:
4. Infectious Disease and Preparedness Response Plan
Employers with any job tasks classified as "medium" risk must conduct training on:
At the end of the training, employees should be able to recognize the hazards of COVID-19, signs and symptoms, and the procedures to be followed to minimize the risk of exposure. Employers will need a written certification verifying compliance.
Employers can find samples of the Workplace Hazard Assessment Certification, Training materials and Certification form, and a template for an Infectious Disease and Preparedness Response Plan on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry's website, available HERE.
In addition to the requirements above, the Standard prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the Standard, or who raise a "reasonable concern about infection control" related to the virus or COVID-19.
7. Enforcement and Penalties
VOSH has the right to conduct inspections for compliance with the Standard, and it can impose penalties for certain violations.
Conclusion and Takeaways
The Standard remains in effect for six months from July 27, 2020, unless the State of Emergency expires/is lifted or it is superseded by a permanent standard. Because the Standard is currently in effect, Virginia employers need to take steps to come into compliance immediately.