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VDOLI gives employers until end of September 2020 to comply with new COVID-19 Emergency Standard

July was a busy month for Virginia's Department of Labor & Industry (VDOLI) as it became the first state in the country to adopt an Emergency Standard governing employers’ obligations to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic (July 15th). On July 27th, the Emergency Standard took effect in Virginia. The Emergency Standard requires Virginia employers to do training with their employees on infectious disease preparedness and response plans by the end of September 2020 to comply with these standards. 

Virginia employers who do not comply with (including revising policies and procedures for dealing with their workforces) the Emergency Standard by the deadline could face VDOLI enforcement actions. Details of the Emergency Standard can be found here.

ABOUT THE STANDARD Named the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard 16VAC 25-220-40.B.8.e Infectious Disease Prevention: SARAS-CoV02 Virus that Causes COVID-19, it is designed to supplement and enhance existing VOSH laws, rules, regulations, and standards applicable directly or indirectly to SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease-related hazards such as, but not limited to, those dealing with personal protective equipment, respiratory protective equipment, sanitation, access to employee exposure and medical records, occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories, hazard communication, § 40.1-51.1 A of the Code of Virginia, etc.  Highlights of this Emergency Standard include: Employees With COVID-19 VDOLI wants to hear about employees who test positive for COVID-19. Employers "shall notify the VDOLI within 24-hours of the discovery of three (3) or more employees present at the place of employment within a 14-day period testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus during that 14-day time period.”  Personal Protective Equipment

Employers should ensure compliance with the Emergency Standard as it relates to Personal Protective Equipment and Physical Distancing. Per the Standard, "Personal Protective Equipment,” means equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, biological, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include, but is not limited to, items such as gloves, safety glasses, shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, surgical/medical procedure masks, gowns, face shields, coveralls, vests, and full body suits. 

"Physical distancing,” also called "social distancing” means keeping space between yourself and other persons while conducting work-related activities inside and outside of the physical establishment by staying at least six feet from other persons. When possible, employers should create physical separation of an employee from other employees or persons by a permanent, solid floor to ceiling wall constitutes physical distancing from an employee or other person stationed on the other side of the wall. 

Work Pratice Control Per the Emergency Standard, employers should exercise work practice control, meaning a type of administrative control by which the employer modifies the manner in which the employee performs assigned work.  Workplace Cleaning It seems to go without saying that all common spaces, including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces, and doors, shall at a minimum be cleaned and disinfected at the end of each shift, but the Emergency Standards expressly mention this practice. In addition, all shared tools, equipment, workspaces, and vehicles shall be cleaned and disinfected prior to transfer from one employee to another.  Contract Workers Employers shall discuss with subcontractors and companies that provide contract or temporary employees about the importance of employees or other persons who are known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus of staying home. Subcontractor, contract, or temporary employees known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus shall not report to or be allowed to remain at the work site until cleared for return to work. Subcontractors shall not allow their known or suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus employees to report to or be allowed to remain at work or on a job site until cleared for return to work. 

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