January 28, 2021

Virginia Adopts Permanent Standard to Control COVID-19 Spread in Workplaces

The Commonwealth of Virginia has adopted a permanent standard that requires employers to take certain measures to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Virginia workplaces. The Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19 went into effect on Jan. 27, 2021, and applies to every employer, employee, and place of employment in the state. Public or private schools and institutions of higher education may operate under their own plans if they provide for employee protection at levels greater than or equal to those required by the state standard.

Under the standard, all Virginia employers must assess their employees’ risk of being exposed to SARS-CoV-2 within the workplace, encourage employees to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and develop and implement policies and procedures for employees to report their symptoms if any occur. Employees known or suspected to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 may not be allowed to return to the worksite until they have been without fever for at least 24 hours, respiratory symptoms have improved, and at least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms. Infected employees who do not develop symptoms may not return to work until at least 10 days after their first positive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Employers must also discuss with subcontractors the requirement that subcontractor, contract, or temporary employees who are known or suspected to be infected with the virus not come to work until cleared.

If an employee tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, employers are required to inform other employees who may have been exposed as well as other employers with employees present at the worksite during the same time period and the building or facility owner. If two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases occur at a worksite within a 14-day period, employers must report the cases to the Virginia Department of Health.

While at work, employees must observe physical distancing while on the job and during breaks. Employers can ensure this through measures such as announcements, signage, and closing or restricting access to any areas where employees might congregate, such as common rooms, breakrooms, or lunchrooms. The standard also includes procedures for cases in which multiple employees must occupy a vehicle for work-related purposes, lists requirements for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), and stipulates the enforcement of certain workplace sanitation practices.

The standard designates workplaces as having a very high, high, medium, or lower risk level for SARS-CoV-2 exposure based on the type of work environment and factors like the number of employees and other people in relation to the size of the work area. Employers may be required to comply with additional health and safety measures based on risk levels at their workplace. For example, at workplaces with exposure risks classified as very high, high, or medium, employers have a duty to train employees to recognize the hazards of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the symptoms of COVID-19, and to follow procedures to minimize the risk of infection, including correct PPE use. The standard’s training requirements will take effect on March 26, 2021.

The new permanent standard succeeds Virginia’s emergency temporary standard for COVID-19, which went into effect on July 27, 2020. For more information, refer to the full permanent standard (PDF) or the website of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.