On July 27, 2020, Virginia became the first state in the nation to implement workplace safety and health standards for COVID-19. The Safety and Health Codes Board adopted § 16VAC25-220, an Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19 (the “Temporary Standard”), which is designed to supplement and enhance existing Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (“VOSH”) laws, rules, and regulations that may apply to the prevention and control of COVID-19 in the workplace. Virginia imposed these standards because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), the federal agency responsible for workplace safety, has thus far refused to make its own extensive recommendations mandatory. Not surprisingly, the Virginia standards borrow heavily from existing OSHA guidance in most areas.
Under the Temporary Standard, Virginia employers are required to assess their workplaces for hazards that could expose employees to COVID-19; categorize their job functions into those that constitute very high, high, medium, or lower risk of exposure; and create policies and procedures that address employees who have symptoms of or test positive for COVID-19, provide for physical distancing in the workplace, and cleaning and sanitizing of the workplace. Many employers also will be required to create an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, and train their employees on safety procedures.