July 16, 2020 / Courtney Malveaux

Virginia Passes First-in-Nation Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19

Post updated July 22, 2020

Editor’s note: On July 29 at 12 noon ET, Courtney Malveaux will present an AIHA webinar on Virginia’s Emergency Temporary Standard on Occupational Exposure to COVID-19. Registration is required. Attendance is free.

Employers wondering whether Virginia is the new California just got their answer: California has some catching up to do.

By a 9–2 vote, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (of which I am a member) passed first-in-the-nation standards to address COVID-19 in workplaces. Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH), the state’s version of OSHA, now will enforce a standard that mandates—and in some instances exceeds—guidance issued by 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 to 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
  • maintain air handling systems in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and American National Standards Institute and 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 also implements provisions that echo CDC and OSHA guidance, including requirements to:

  • place requirements on workplaces based on hazard levels (that is, “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
  • clean and disinfect commonly used areas and equipment

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.

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.

Editor's note: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that the Virginia Emergency Temporary Standard includes exemptions for certain institutions of higher education and public school divisions. The exemptions were removed in the final version of the bill. The post was updated July 20, 2020, to remove the incorrect statements and to indicate that the bill was approved by the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board by a vote of 9–2.

Courtney Malveaux

Courtney Malveaux is a principal in the Richmond, Virginia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C., a co-leader of Jackson Lewis’ Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group, a member of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board, and the immediate past Labor Commissioner of Virginia.


Kudos to the State of Virginia

As a Virginia resident for 5+ years now, I am delighted to see the Commonwealth take the lead in prescribing critical guidance (and much needed clarity) during these difficult times. Let's hope other states take notice and adopt similar measures.

By Larry Sloan on July 16, 2020 3:12pm

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