VA Enacts COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standard

Virginia’s Dept Labor and Industries (DOLI) has issued a first-in-the-nation standard to protect workers against the risk of contracting COVID-19.

The standard (16 VAC 25-220) will be in place for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.

It requires the following:

  • Social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible;
  • Frequent access to handwashing stations or hand sanitizer;
  • Cleaning of high-contact surfaces;
  • Notification of all employers within 24 hours of a co-worker testing positive; and
  • Prohibiting employees known or suspected to have COVID-19 from returning to work for 10 days or until they have two consecutive negative tests.

However, some worker organizations (poultry and forestry) suggest the new rules are no more than a summary of existing rules by OSHA and the CDC.

Virginia DOLI developed the standard in response to an Executive Order signed on May 26 by Gov. Northam directing the department to “control, prevent and mitigate” the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), for each risk assessment, employers should consider the environment, the task, the threat, resources available, such as personal protective equipment, and the feasibility of protective measures.

The risk assessment should also extend to collective accommodation provided by the employer for workers, such as dormitories. 

Essential public services, such as security and police, food retail, accommodation, public transport, deliveries, water and sanitation, and other frontline workers may be at an increased risk of exposure to occupational hazards for health and safety.

Workers who may be at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness because of age or pre-existing medical conditions should be considered in the risk assessment for individuals.

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