On July 15, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to COVID-19, according to www.governor.virginia.gov.
The safety rules are the first of their kind in the U.S. and will protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, recordkeeping, training and hazard communications in workplaces throughout Virginia. The actions come in the absence of federal guidelines.
“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” said Northam. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”
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; provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer; and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, new standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a co-worker tests positive for the virus. 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.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Northam directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.
The standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website.