Virginia Adopts Covid-19 Worker Safety Guidelines
07/17/2020 04:00 PM
Last week the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board voted to approve new workplace safety standards to protect employees from the coronavirus. These standards will apply to all businesses. Virginia is the first state in the nation to do adopt such standards.

The adopted workplace standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website?when available.

These standards will be published in a Richmond newspaper the week of July 27 at which time they will become effective. They will be effective for six months or until the State of Emergency ends.

The newly adopted standards require all employers to:
  • Mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible.
  • Regularly clean high-contact surfaces, including bathrooms and shared tools or equipment.
  • Provide easy and frequent access for employees to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • Assess workplaces for potential hazards that can cause exposure to COVID-19 and put in place an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan for high-risk employees.
  • Notify all employees within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus.
  • According to the state standards, employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests; however the Fairfax County Health Department encourages businesses to follow the time-based approach in accordance with CDC guidelines.

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
  • 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
  • Provide COVID-19 training of all employees within 30 days (except for low-hazard places of employment)
  • Prepare infectious disease preparedness and response plans within 60 days (except for employers with 10 or less employees)
  • Post or present agency-prepared COVID-19 information to all employees

Many of the additional regulations are for jobs deemed medium, high or very high risk. Businesses must also classify whether jobs are “very high,” “high,” “medium” and “lower” risk based on potential exposure to known or suspected sources for coronavirus

High and very high-risk jobs are defined as those in which there is a high probability an employee will come in contact with people known or suspected to be infected with the virus, such as health care workers and first responders.

Medium risk jobs are defined as those that “require more than minimal occupational contact” with other employees or the general public, such as workers in settings like restaurants, grocery and retail stores, correctional facilities, factories and plants.

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 maximum penalty for violating the rules is set at $13,000, but “willful and repeat” violations could result in fines up to $130,000.


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