Safety and health board drafting temporary COVID-19 standards

Posted at 10:48 PM, Jun 29, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- As the Commonwealth prepares to begin phase three of the reopening process on Wednesday, a state board continued its work on Monday to craft a set of emergency temporary standards for Virginia's workplaces aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It marked the second meeting of the Virginia Health and Safety Codes Board, a part of the Department of Labor and Industry, to discuss implementing the directive from Governor Ralph Northam's Executive Order 63 that directed DOLI to "promulgate emergency regulations and standards to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace."

While the Board members cleared procedural hurdles at its first meeting, on Monday they started going through the proposed standards and amendments.
Some of what was approved on Monday was the effective date of the standards, when they could expire, and exemptions for employers already following CDC guidelines.

The Board approved the section that stated the standards will go into effect on July 15 and will remain in effect for six months or until permanent standards are developed. The Board also approved an amendment that states the standards could also cease to be in effect with Governor Northam rescinds his State of Emergency declaration.

The Board also approved a section that stated if an employer is following Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that are equal to or greater than the proposed standards (and the employer can document this), then they will be considered in compliance with the standards.

As written, the standards would apply to all employees, employers, and places of employment that fall under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

There will be a portion of the standards that all employers will have to comply with. These include notifying employees within 24 hours if someone at the workplace has tested positive for COVID-19, developing and implementing policies for known or suspected COVID-19 employees to return to work, and ensuring employees observe physical distancing while on the job.

Another portion of the standards would be applied depending on a job's exposure risk to the virus. This would range from "very high" to "high" to "medium" to "lower". Each employer will be required to assess and classify their workplace for exposure risk, with the understanding that one workplace could have different levels of exposure risk (for example, in a healthcare setting, an employee intubating a known COVID-19 patient could be classified as “very high” risk, while someone doing administrative work away from others could be considered “lower” risk).

Monday's meeting adjourned at approximately 5 p.m. and will reconvene at a later date to continue their work.