Earlier this month, Virginia became the first state in the nation to adopt statewide COVID-19 workplace safety standards. Those standards are now in effect.
If you do business in Virginia, you need to ensure that your organization abides by the new regulations. As an employer, you are now liable for any noncompliance with COVID-19-related safety practices and standards. Even if you don’t do business in Virginia, you should be aware of these new regulations, as other states may enact similar measures before long.
The New Safety Requirements at a Glance
Under Virginia’s COVID-19 workplace safety standards (PDF), all businesses must ensure the following:
- Workers practice social distancing.
- Workers wear face coverings.
- Employers provide access to hand washing or hand sanitizer.
- High-contact surfaces are sanitized frequently.
- All employees are notified within 24 hours if a co-worker tests positive for COVID-19.
- Any employee who is “known or suspected” to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days, or until that person receives 2 consecutive negative test results.
- Employers complete a hazard assessment by job category for potential exposure to COVID-19.
Governor Ralph Northam has also mentioned mandatory “infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications.”
The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program is enforcing the standards. Penalties could range from $13,000 to $130,000.
How Long Will This Last?
The emergency standards will expire in 6 months, or when Virginia’s State of Emergency ends—or if a permanent standard is implemented.
There are a few key dates to be aware of in the meantime.
You’ll need to respond with a written infectious disease preparedness and response plan, if required for your facility, by September 25, 2020.
You’ll also need to make sure all of your employees have been trained and you have written certification records for those employees by August 26, 2020.
Third, if you haven’t already, you need to evaluate your workplace and conduct a hazard assessment by job description for the likelihood of contact with COVID-19. Make sure to do this as soon as possible, as this part of the law has already gone into effect.
What Should You Do?
Implement and optimize COVID-19 safety procedures at your facilities. Here are a few recommendations for getting started:
- Conduct a hazard assessment. Review and audit your current practices and identify areas for improvement along with additional protocols you may need to implement.
- Review the final language of the law with your legal counsel to ensure you have a clear understanding of what is required of employers.
- Work and communicate with your employees about the importance of a safe and healthy work environment. Train them on the proper procedures you’ve put in place and any required training courses.
For more information, see the Virginia Department of Labor’s toolkit, which includes the full text of the regulation, training materials, frequently asked questions, an infographic, and more.
We’re Here to Help
KPA can get your workforce up to speed with these new standards quickly and cost-effectively. Our COVID-19 Safety Program is designed to help you ensure compliance with Virginia’s emergency standards—and stay on top of any future regulatory changes.