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Virginia rescinds its first in the nation COVID-19 Workplace Health Standard

On July  15, 2020, Virginia, adopted the first in the nation COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (the “ETS”). The ETS required Virginia employers to take certain actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 infections in the workplace. On January 23, 2021, VOSH replaced the ETS with a permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention (the “Permanent Standard”), which it amended in August 2021.

On January 15, 2022, Governor Youngkin issued an Executive Order directing the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (the “Board”) to convene an emergency meeting to discuss if there is an ongoing need for the Permanent Standard. The Board met on February 16, 2022, and voted 7-3 to follow VOSH’s recommendation that the Permanent Standard should be withdrawn because COVID-19 no longer poses a “grave danger” to Virginia workers. A 30-day public comment period that ran until March 19, 2022. On March 21, 2022, the Board convened a public hearing, during which it voted to revoke the Permanent Standard. The revocation is effective on March 23, 2022.

In conjunction with the revocation of the Permanent Standard, VOSH issued a guidance document with recommendations for employers to mitigate COVID-19 risks for employee.  The new guidance document takes effect once the Permanent Standard is no longer in effect (March 23, 2022). The new guidance document recommends that 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 your 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;
  • Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths which are mandatory under VOSH regulations part 1904; and,
  • Follow other applicable mandatory VOSH standards.

The guidance document also notes that going forward, VOSH may look to the General Duty Clause to hold employers accountable if they fail to protect works against know health threats, like COVID-19. Employers are also free to adopt safety and health workplace rules that are more stringent than the new VOSH guidance. The guidance document is intended to carry Virginia on its path towards normalcy.

If you have any question concerning the revocation of the VOSH Permanent Standard, or the new guidance document issued by VOSH, please call or email Spencer Wiegard, 540-983-9454 or swiegard@gmail.com.

These articles are provided for general informational purposes only and are marketing publications of Gentry Locke. They do not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You are urged to consult your own lawyer concerning your situation and specific legal questions you may have.
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