Virginia Adopts Emergency Workplace Safety Regulations
Another reason why CDC compliance is the gold standard….
Information about Virginia’s Adoption of Emergency Workplace Safety Regulations is found here. This is a Virginia state-OSHA-specific compliance development, but in a nutshell key takeaways are below.
Federal OSHA has only issued guidance related to COVID-19 compliance, proceeding with enforcement under existing regulations and the General Duty Clause (employer’s general requirement to provide a safe work place). However, 22 states, including Virginia, have state OSHA plans.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s 14-member Safety and Health Codes Board voted to approve an emergency temporary standard (ETS) on infectious disease prevention. The entire Standard may be viewed here. The ETS will remain in effect for six months and sunsets either six months after its effective date or when it is superseded by a permanent rule.
Notably, the Emergency Rule includes a provision that protects employers who comply with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) related to mitigation of COVID-19 in the workplace. To the extent employers in Virginia comply with CDC guidelines, they will be deemed in compliance with the Emergency Rule.
Another immediate reason why our strict adherence/us keeping up with CDC is so imperative. As is the case usually, other states will likely to follow suit. Dental Whale’s Compliance Department will continue monitoring this.
Key Observations from the Virginia Standards
The following are key observations that may be of interest to food companies generally:
- Virginia groups potential workplace exposures into four categories, based on the risk level: “Very High,” “High,” “Medium,” and “Lower.” According to the Standards, most food companies (including food processors, food retailers, and food service operators) are likely to be “Medium” risk exposure settings. Very High” risk jobs include activities that involve aerosol-generating procedures or working with known COVID-19 patients or specimens. “
- Although the Standards provide likely risk categories for various operations, employers are expected to conduct risk assessments to determine which risk level applies to their operations and may need to implement different controls depending on the exposure assessment of each type of employee.
- The varying requirements address personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces.
- There are return-to-work requirements, including time and testing strategies for confirmed or suspected and asymptomatic workers.
- No part of the Standards requires contact tracing, nor do the Standards require testing (although the Standards impose various requirements around testing if testing is conducted).
- The Standards require physical distancing but appear to provide allowances when physical distancing is not possible. The Standards do not provide guidance on how an employer should determine whether physical distancing is possible.
- Most employers must develop and implement written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans.
- Employers must conduct detailed training requirements on plans and control strategies in the workplace.
- Employers must observe the anti-discrimination requirements against employees for exercising their rights in the workplace related to COVID-19.
- Virginia will consider an employer’s “actual compliance” with CDC guidance as “evidence of good faith” in any enforcement proceeding.
These standards will be enforceable by VOSH, which can inspect workplaces and impose financial penalties for violation, including up to $130,463 for each willful or repeated violation (with smaller penalties for lesser violations), as well as criminal penalties in certain circumstances.