UPDATE July 21, 2020: The Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board has formally adopted the Temporary Safety Standards. The Board stated these standards “will take immediate effect” some time “during the week of July 27, 2020, although the exact date is not known at this time.”
The final version of the standards can be found on the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) website (pdf).
The DOLI has committed to providing training materials through VOSH Cooperative Programs division, which will include:
- A COVID‐19 Training PowerPoint for Employers and Employees with an included training certification form
- An ETS Training PowerPoint that explains the elements of the standard with an included training certification form (including different versions for different industries)
- FAQs about the standard
- An Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan Template (including different versions for different industries)
- A training PowerPoint on how to develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan Template with an included training certification form
- A flowchart for determining how to classify job tasks by the hazards to which employees are potentially exposed for “very high”, “high”, “medium”, and “lower” exposure risk levels
Covered employers will be required to provide training on the new standards as soon as 30 days after the implementation of the Temporary Safety Standards.
Stay tuned for more updates as the Commonwealth provides additional information, training materials, and guidance.
Now is the time to get ready!
On July 15, 2020, the governor announced that Virginia is adopting first-in-the-nation workplace safety standards for the COVID-19 Pandemic. Employers should prepare now!
The finalized text of the regulations is expected to be published the week of July 27, 2020. A June 2020 draft can be found on the Department of Labor & Industry website. However, the draft version is subject to revision between now and final publication. As soon as the regulations are published — you will hear from us!
How will these standards affect my workplace?
The standards establish guidelines for employers to ensure workplaces are as safe as possible in light of the challenges posed by COVID-19. Some expected highlights include the following:
- Mandated PPE and social distancing
- Temperature check kiosks or other entry protocols
- Requirements that positive employees remain out of the workplace for 10 days or until they produce two consecutive negative test results
- Development and implementation of an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
- Required training for employees, especially those in high-risk jobs, on infectious disease preparedness and response plans
- Notification to employees within 24 hours of any potential workplace exposure
What happens if employers don’t comply?
Employers likely will face fines and VOSH complaints from employees. The Governor’s website provides a link for employees to file a complaint when they believe their employer is not providing a safe workplace or complying with these guidelines.
How can workplaces prepare for compliance?
Even though the standards are not finalized, now is the time for employers to start planning and to implement some basic steps.
- Stock up on PPE, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer
- Ensure your workplace has appropriate labels and markings for health and safety signs and social distancing
- Start looking into implementing a temperature check kiosk or station upon entry
Finally, begin considering the most effective way to communicate to employees about a potential exposure. This communication can be fraught with peril. Keep in mind the concerns and potential liabilities associated with employer’s desire to reveal an employee’s medical diagnosis like a positive test COVID-19. There is also the practical concern that such communications may create angst among employees. Developing a preliminary communication plan will be integral to conveying required information while not contributing to undue panic among the workforce.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is expected to post sample training and policy materials for an emergency response plan the week of July 27. We are awaiting this final guidance as we develop and refine policy language and training protocols for you! Since the start of the pandemic, we have been helping employers develop infectious disease response plans specifically tailored to their workplaces. These plans, which include aspects like contact tracing protocols, employee personal travel policies, and enforcement of PPE, are the key to ensuring success throughout the pandemic and meeting OSHA and VDOLI standards.
Let’s team up and get ready together!