Virginia Adopts First-in-the-Nation Workplace Safety Standards for COVID-19 Pandemic

Gov. Ralph Northam announced statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. These first-in-the-nation safety rules will protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth. 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.

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 coworker 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 today to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Governor 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 emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at https://www.doli.virginia.gov/. Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/workers/file_complaint.html.

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