Commentary

COVID-19 Safety Standards

Virginia has adopted permanent COVID-19 safety rules for employers that will remain in effect as long as the Commonwealth remains in a state of emergency.  When that ends, the Safety and Health Codes Board will determine whether there is a need for the standard to continue thereafter.

For the most part, the permanent standard follows the emergency standard issued in July 2020.  However, the new permanent standard includes important changes and mandates that employers should address.

Most notably, the permanent standard revises the process for clearing employees to return to work following an infection.  Employers may no longer use testing to accelerate returns to work.  Under the new rules, symptomatic employees must stay out at least 10 days from the first appearance of symptoms; asymptomatic employees cannot return until 10 days have passed from the date of their positive test.

Employers also are no longer required to report each confirmed COVID-19 case to the Virginia Department of Health.  Instead, an employer now must report when it has two or more confirmed cases over a 14-day period in employees who are present in the workplace.

The permanent standard contains additional mandates:

  • provide acceptable face coverings to employees who interface with customers or other individuals;
  • provide wraparound face shields to employees who cannot wear face coverings due to medical conditions;
  • implement hazard controls for employees required to share vehicles with others;
  • ensure that appropriate and feasible engineering controls are in place for air-handling systems applicable to medium and high-risk exposure jobs; and
  • consider additional factors in assessing exposure risks as part of their Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans.

Finally, employers that implemented Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans and conducted training are required to account for the permanent new standard.  The permanent standard gives employers until March 26, 2021 to update plans and trainings.