Virginia is the first US state to set OSHA standard for COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of Virginia (VOSH), has enforced a standard that mandates — and, in some cases, exceeds — guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA. The new standard covers not only the private employers of Virginia but also all state and local employees.
CDC and OSHA already have their own set of guidelines regarding COVID-19, In addition to that, VOSH standard includes provisions that require employers to:
- Provide flexible sick-leave policies, work from home, and loose shifts when feasible;
- Provide both hand disinfectant counters and hand sanitizer when feasible;
- Conduct screening to assess risk levels of employers and suppliers before entry;
- Notify the Virginia Department of Health of positive COVID-19 tests;
- Notify VOSH of three or more positive COVID-19 tests within a two-week period;
- Assess hazard levels of all job tasks;
- Provide all employees COVID-19 training within 30 days (except for low-hazard places of the workplace);
- Prepare infectious disease preparation and response plans within 60 days;
- Post or present agency-prepared COVID-19 information to all employees; and
- Maintain air management systems in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.
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These standards protect employees who raise reasonable concerns about workplace safety against infection to print, online, social, or other media. It also requires building and facility owners to report positive COVID-19 tests to employer tenants. The standard exempts private and public institutions of higher education with reopening plans certified by the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and public school divisions that submit reopening plans to the Virginia Department of Education. No such exemptions are provided to private elementary and secondary schools.
The standard also implements provisions that repeat CDC and OSHA guidance, including requirements to:
- Place requirements on workplaces based on hazard levels (i.e., “very high,” “high,” “medium,” and “low”);
- Screen employees prior to entry to work;
- Establish requirements for employees with COVID-19 positive tests and symptoms before returning to work;
- Require social distancing or, when social distancing is not possible, respiratory protection; and
- Clean and disinfect commonly used areas and equipment.
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The emergency standard has taken effect upon publication at the end of July and is set to expire within six months or upon expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency or the enactment of a permanent standard.
Virginia is a “State Plan” state that operates its own occupational safety and health program under an OSHA grant. There are 27 other “State Plan” states that also might consider similar COVID-19 standards.
Are you one of the employers who need help with OSHA compliance? Contact Safety Assure. Safety Assure helps companies establish a safer workplace without the administrative burden.