Two years after enacting the nation’s first COVID-19 safety regulations for employers, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board revoked the standard effective March 23, 2022.
The Board adopted the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) recommendation that COVID-19 no longer posed a “grave danger” to employees. For most employers, this means the legal requirements for indoor masking, social distancing, response plans, training and case reporting are no longer in effect.
However, there are some workplace requirements that remain in effect, including Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) standards governing respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, sanitation, bloodborne pathogens and the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to protect their workers from recognized hazards to health and safety. Employers must also continue to adhere to VOSH mandatory health and safety standards that apply to their specific industry, and record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths, which are mandatory under VOSH regulations part 1904.
To replace the regulations, VOSH developed “COVID-19 General Guidance,” a less restrictive guidance document that is not binding. The document recommends 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 workplace COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand;
- Operate and maintain ventilation systems in accordance to manufacturers specifications to achieve optimal performance;
- Follow other applicable mandatory VOSH standards.
Considerations for Health Care Providers
At the federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s General Duty Clause continues to apply, which requires all employers provide a work environment free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In addition, OSHA has opened public comments to establish a Final Standard “Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings.” This will bear monitoring as provision changes are expected once the comment period closes. Also, providers should continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) infection prevention and controls as the CDC’s new COVID-19 Community Levels recommendations do not apply in the health care setting.
As COVID-19 protocols continue to evolve, it is important employers review all internal policies, procedures, and training documents for compliance with Virginia’s changes while still adhering to mandatory federal safety and health regulations.
Attorneys and practice areas related to this topic include:
Jonathan M. Joseph
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