In the absence of a federal standard, Virginia took action last year to create the nation’s first emergency temporary workplace safety and health requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective January 27, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam released Virginia’s a permanent standard replacing the temporary standard which has been in place since July 2020.
The Permanent Standard has a few notable changes from the temporary standard:
- The Permanent Standard relaxes employer’s reporting obligations, only requiring an employer to report to the Virginia Department of Health when two or more employees test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, rather than reporting each positive case.
- The Permanent Standard modifies the return to work requirements, removing the test-based approach permitted under the Temporary Standard. Now, instead of relying on a negative COVID-19 test, employers must rely on a symptom-based standard before allowing employees to return to work.
- The Permanent Standard explains that face coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose and fit snugly under the chin and should not have vents or valves. It also clarifies that face shields do not qualify as face coverings. However, face shields may be worn if face coverings can’t be worn because of a medical condition.
- Under the Permanent Standard, an employer will not be in violation if it fails to provide PPE, if PPE is not readily available, despite the employer’s good faith effort.
- The Permanent Standard requires employers in the very high, high, and medium risk categories to implement enhanced ventilation controls for air-handling systems.
Notably, the Permanent Standard doesn’t require employers to exclude employees from the workplace if they have been in close contact with an individual infected with COVID-19. The Permanent Plan also doesn’t provide any guidance regarding employees who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The Permanent Standard notes that employers will be considered to be in compliance with the standard if they comply with CDC guidance, whether mandatory or non-mandatory, as long as the guidance provides equivalent or greater protection than the Permanent Standard.
Read a more in depth article about Virginia’s Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Standards for a more detailed look at these standards.
To help you implement and comply with the standards quickly and easily Employment Practice lawyers at General Counsel helped create COVID Compliance documentation and training packages available for purchase through Business Compliance, LLC.