On July 15, 2020, Virginia became the first state in the nation to establish requirements for employers to control, prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Temporary Emergency Standard went into effect July 27, 2020. While Virginia employers should review the standard in its entirety (found here) , following is a summary of the regulation’s key provisions.
The standard requirements vary depending on the level of exposure risk associated with jobs in a company including “very high,” “high,” “medium,” and “lower.” Examples of work associated with “high risk” of exposure include jobs in which an employee is “collecting or handling specimens from a patient or person known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” At the other end of the spectrum, employees with “lower” risk of exposure are those able to maintain minimal occupational contact with other employees through means such as teleworking, staggering shifts and using workplace barriers.
Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
Employers with “very high,” “high,” and “medium” (with at least 11 employees) exposure risk, must develop and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. Among other requirements, the plan must consider and address the level(s) of COVID-19 disease risk associated with the employees’ job tasks, provide for the prompt offsite isolation of employees with known or suspected cases and address preparedness and response with those outside the organization like vendors and subcontractors. Employers must develop and implement their Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans by September 27, 2020.
Employers with hazards or job tasks at the “very high,” “high,” and “medium” exposure risk levels must also provide COVID-19–related training to employees by August 27, 2020. The training must “enable each employee to recognize the hazards of … and signs and symptoms of COVID-19” and the employer’s procedures for minimizing exposure and cover: 1) the standard’s requirements 2) how COVID-19 is transmitted 3) risk factors for severe illness for those with underlying health conditions 4) the possibility of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread 5) safe work practices 6) personal protective equipment 7) the employer’s Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan and 8) the standard’s anti-discrimination requirements. Recordkeeping requirements include a written certification record for employees with “very high,” “high,” or “medium” exposure risks and a signed statement they completed the training.
Employers of “lower” risk employees do not have to provide formal training but must disseminate basic written or oral information on COVID-19 hazards and measures that can be taken to minimize exposure.
Mandatory Requirements for all Employers
The standard includes dozens of requirements for all employers regardless of the COVID-19 exposure risk level. Some of the main requirements for employers are:
- Conduct an assessment of the workplace for hazards and tasks with the potential to expose employees to COVID-19 and classify each task as “very high,” “high,” “medium” or “lower” exposure risk. Employers must ensure compliance with the applicable sections of the standard for each level of exposure risk.
- Notify employees of methods to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
- Develop and implement policies and procedures for employees to report when they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and no alternative diagnosis has been made (e.g., tested positive for influenza).
- Prohibit employees or other persons known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19 from reporting to or remaining at work until cleared for return to work through a symptom-based or test-based strategy.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Establish a system to receive positive COVID-19 test reports from employees, subcontractors, contract employees and temporary employees and notify certain individuals of the positive tests.
- Ensure employee access to their own COVID- 19 disease related exposure and medical records in accordance with the standard applicable to its industry.
- Develop and implement policies and procedures for positive COVID-19 asymptomatic employees to return to work using either a time-based or test-based strategy.
- Ensure that employees observe physical distancing while on the job and during paid breaks on the employer’s property.
- Notify the Virginia Department of Health within 24 hours of discovering a COVID-19 positive case.
- Notify the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry within 24 hours of the discovery of three or more employees present at work “within a 14-day period testing positive for [COVID-19] during that 14-day time period.”
Be HR Smart with Smart HR
Although Virginia is the first state to take mandatory COVID-19 measures for employers, it likely won’t be the last. Even if you are an employer outside of Virginia with no current mandates, Virginia’s Temporary Emergency Standard serves as a comprehensive template for employers wanting to be proactive in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Virginia employers with employees at “very high,” “high,” and “medium” risk from COVID-19 have several deadlines quickly approaching for implementing an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan and COVID-19 training. Smart HR can help make sure your company is compliant by those deadlines and with the requirements of all Virginia employers. Call today.