Virginia Issues Stringent Rules Governing Workplace Safety During COVID-19 Pandemic

              On July 15, Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board issued Statewide Emergency Workplace Safety Standards “designed to establish requirements for employers to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of [COVID-19]”. Many of the requirements mirror those published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), however, the new standards contain several specific provisions that place more onerous responsibilities on employers in the state. For example, in addition to providing flexible sick leave and telework policies, assessing the risk for exposure in certain job duties, and maintaining various workplace sanitation practices, employers must, among other things:

  • Notify state health officials about a positive COVID-19 test;
  • Notify state safety officials about three or more positive tests within a two-week period;
  • Develop a COVID-19 response and preparedness plan within 60 days and provide training to employees; and
  • Distribute state-provided COVID-19 information to employees.

Lastly, the rules prohibit employer retaliation for whistleblower employees who raise concerns about an employer’s compliance with the provisions and employers who fail to comply with the new regulations could face fines up to $13,000 or for repeated intentional non-compliance, up to $130,000. The new standards are expected to take effect the week of July 27th and are set to expire after six months or at the termination of the state’s COVID-19 emergency order, whichever is sooner.

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