On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, official revocation of Virginia’s COVID-19 permanent workplace safety standard became effective upon publication in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. That action followed a vote by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOLI’s) Safety and Health Codes Board (Board) earlier this week.
The Board initiated steps in February to end the standard based on its finding that emerging scientific and medical evidence showed that the current variants of the COVID-19 virus no longer constitute a “grave danger” to employees in the workplace. The Board allowed a 30-day public comment period before voting this week to formally revoke the standard.
The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program (VOSH) continues to have workplace safety enforcement authority under its General Duty Clause as informed by applicable federal and state public health guidance. Additionally, DOLI has announced draft Guidance for Employers to Mitigate the Risk of COVID-19 to Workers, which outlines general health and safety measures that it expects employers to follow, including:
- Facilitating employees getting vaccinated and boosted;
- Encouraging any workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work and seek advice on testing and treatment from their physician;
- Requiring all workers infected with COVID-19 virus to stay home;
- Providing workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate;
- Encouraging good sanitary work habits such as frequent hand washing;
- Educating workers on workplace COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand;
- Operating and maintaining ventilation systems in accordance to manufacturers specifications to achieve optimal performance; and
- Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths when required by federal OSHA regulations.
DOLI has announced a public comment period from March 28, 2022 until April 27, 2022 on the draft guidance, but encourages employers to rely on the draft guidance starting now.
If you have any questions on these developments, need assistance developing policies and procedures to adjust for such changes, or have other questions regarding your workforce related to COVID-19, please contact Betty Graumlich at firstname.lastname@example.org, Noah Oberlander at email@example.com, or the Reed Smith lawyer with whom you normally work.