On January 13, 2021, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOLI’s) Safety and Health Codes Board voted 9-4 to approve a permanent COVID-19 workplace safety standard, setting the stage for Virginia to become the first state in the nation to do so. In July 2020, DOLI’s Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program (VOSH) adopted temporary emergency COVID-19 workplace safety regulations, which are currently set to expire January 27, 2021.

The Board conducted virtual meetings on January 12-13, 2021 to consider the final language of the permanent COVID-19 standard in light of a flood of public comment. The proposed permanent regulations now go to Governor Ralph Northam for review and possible revision, which would require further consideration by the Board. The final standard will take effect upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation in Richmond, VA.

Overall, these workplace safety regulations are intended to supplement and enhance existing state and federal occupational safety and health requirements. Failure to comply with the VOSH standards may result in potential criminal penalties as well as civil penalties ranging from approximately $13,000 per violation to more than $130,000 per violation if willful and/or repeated. As of December 30, 2020, VOSH indicated it had conducted nearly 100 workplace COVID-19 inspections and expects to pursue more enforcement actions after the permanent standard goes into effect.

Upon final publication, Virginia employers should immediately review these regulations to determine how their operations may be impacted. If you have any questions on these requirements, need assistance developing policies and procedures to comply with these regulations, or have other questions regarding your workforce related to COVID-19, please contact Betty Graumlich at bgraumlich@reedsmith.com, Mark Passero at mpassero@reedsmith.com, Noah Oberlander at noberlander@reedsmith.com, or the Reed Smith lawyer with whom you normally work.