On March 22, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) revoked the Virginia Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19, 16VAC25-220. This legislation was the first and only state-implemented standard for protecting employees from the SARs-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Although this standard has been revoked as COVID-19 vaccination rates rise while hospitalization and death rates fall, the Virginia DOLI has implemented a new “guidance document” to provide continuing assistance for Virginia employers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workforce.
Background on the 16VAC25-220 Standard
On July 15, 2020, the Virginia DOLI implemented a temporary emergency standard for Virginia employers to help reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through the workplace. This temporary emergency standard, to be enforced by Virginia Occupational Safety Administration (VOSH), went beyond the guidance measures adopted by OSHA. The temporary standard could only be maintained for six months, at which time it would expire unless a permanent standard replaced it.
The new permanent standard, “The Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19,” or 16VAC25-220, was implemented on January 27, 2021. The language is similar to the temporary standard, but has no set end date.
Summary of the DOLI Guidance Document
While this guidance document does not provide VOSH with a specific standard with which to enforce workplace safety from COVID-19, it can be used as a reference for citing employers who fail to adhere to the guidance document under the “General Duty Clause” in the 29CFR 1910 OSHA General Industry Regulation or the 29CFR 1929 OSHA Construction Industry Regulations.
The guidance document includes the following guidance measures for Virginia employers:
• Facilitate employees getting vaccinated and boosted;
• Encourage any workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work and seek advice on testing and treatment from their physician;
• Require all workers infected with COVID-19 virus to stay home;
• Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate;
• Encourage good sanitary work habits such as frequent hand washing;
• Educate workers on the organization’s COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand;
• Operate and maintain ventilation systems in accordance with manufacturers specifications to achieve optimal performance;
• Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths, which are mandatory under VOSH regulations part 1904; and,
• Follow other applicable mandatory VOSH standards.
For more information regarding this guidance document and assistance in compliance with its guidance measures, please contact RCM&D Risk Consultant Greg Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org.