As you may recall, in July 2020, the Safety and Health Codes Board of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry approved an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19, becoming the first state to issue such a temporary standard. On January 13, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board enacted a permanent standard for COVID-19 in effect for the duration of the pandemic. While the standard largely reiterates the requirements of the emergency temporary standard and Virginia employers are likely already in compliance, there are some material key differences that may require some Virginia employers to modify their existing practices.
What is Different?
In an effort to clarify provisions in the temporary standard and simplify compliance for employers, the permanent standard states the following:
- Employers that are unable, despite a good-faith effort, to obtain required personal protective equipment (PPE) due to commercial shortages, may be afforded leniency from enforcement of PPE requirements.
- Several key definitions are revised as follows:
- “Face covering” is more strictly defined to require “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric that fits snugly against the sides of the face without any gaps, completely covering the nose and mouth and fitting securely under the chin,” and exhalation valves or vents are prohibited.
- “Minimal occupational contact” is defined to refer to remote or solitary job assignments or where contact inside of six feet is brief and incidental (such as passing another person in a hallway).
- “Severely immunocompromised” means “a seriously weakened immune system … from being on chemotherapy for cancer, being within one year out from receiving a hematopoietic stem cell or solid organ transplant, [having] untreated HIV infection with CD4 T lymphocyte count < 200, [having] combined primary immunodeficiency disorder, and receipt of prednisone >20mg [per] day for more than 14 days. The degree of immunocompromise is determined by the treating provider.”
- Instead of having to report any positive case to the Virginia Department of Health, it is now changed to “two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 [amongst the employer’s] own employees present at [a single] place of employment within a 14-day period.”
- For an employee to return to work, the symptom-based standard is updated as follows:
- “Symptomatic employees known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are excluded from returning to work until all three of the following have been met:
- “Employees known to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 who never develop signs or symptoms are excluded from returning to work until 10 days after the date of their first positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.”
I. The employee is fever-free (less than 100.0° F) for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications,
II. Respiratory symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath have improved, and
III. At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.”
- Two or more employees traveling together in a single vehicle must wear employer-provided face coverings, until respiratory protection is readily available.
- Face coverings are required where minimum occupational contact may occur.
- Where “a face covering cannot be worn due to medical contraindications, employers shall provide and employees shall wear” face shields (in compliance with specific design and use criteria) and comply with physical distancing requirements.
- Requirements for “medium,” “high,” and “very high” exposure risk hazards or job tasks are modified and/or clarified with respect to specific requirements for airflow, ventilation, and air filtration and compliance with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards.
- The scope of analysis for an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan is expanded to require consideration of exposure risk for employees working in “higher risk activities involving potentially large numbers of people or enclosed work areas.”
- Digital means (rather than physical or electronic signatures) are permitted for verification of employee training.
Smart HR – Your Covid-19 Resource
Smart HR continues to monitor legislative changes concerning COVID-19, and its effect on the workplace. If you have questions about whether your organization is in compliance, call Smart HR today.