As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and conditions evolve, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board adopted additional amendments to its Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19. The revisions to the Final Permanent Standard became effective September 8, 2021, with some compliance dates set for October 8, 2021, and November 7, 2021.
Many of the revisions reflect the changes made by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations due to the number of vaccinated workers At the Governor’s request, the Board amended the rule to better align the Virginia standard with the CDC’s guidance. The updated standard now states that an employer who “actually complies” with current CDC guidelines, both mandatory and non-mandatory, will be deemed to be in compliance with VOSHA’s workplace standard.
Other changes incorporated during this amendment process include the following:
- Exposure Risk Levels Revised: While the updated standard removes the earlier risk designations of very high, high, medium, and lower risk employees, it continues to require that all employers conduct a workplace safety hazard assessment of each job position. It also introduces the concept of a “higher-risk” workplace. Employers will need to conduct or update existing hazard assessments to reflect these updated hazard concepts.
- Higher-Risk Workplaces: Employers with high-risk workplaces has been defined as those employers with employees who are not fully vaccinated, employees whose workplace is in a location with substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status, and otherwise at-risk employees. The risk factors include:
- Employees working in close proximity to each other.
- Employees who often have prolonged closeness to coworkers or potential frequent contact with members of the public.
- Employees who work in enclosed indoor spaces with inadequate ventilation where other coworkers or members of the public are present.
- Employees that may be exposed to the virus through respiratory droplets or aerosols in the air.
- Employees who engage in a common practice of sharing employer-provided transportation and communal housing or living quarters.
Some examples of higher-risk workplaces include, but are not limited to, manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, high-volume retail and grocery, transit, seafood processing, correctional facilities, jails, detention centers, and juvenile detention centers.
- Mandatory written COVID-19 policy: The updated standard now requires all covered employers, including printing facilities, to implement a COVID-19 policy, covering areas such as
- Workplace safety practices and procedures
- Mandatory reporting
- Return to work procedures after a COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis
- Practices for workplace visitors
- A method to receive anonymous complaints of violations.
As part of the safety practice and procedures component, the policy requires:
- Ensuring unvaccinated/otherwise at-risk employees physically distance and wear masks
- Require unvaccinated employees to mask when sharing a vehicle and continue to follow vehicle-sharing rules unless an employee is alone in a vehicle or just with co-workers who live together.
- Closing or segregating common areas based on vaccination status
- Cleaning with soap or other household cleaners and not disinfecting common areas, breakrooms, lunchrooms once per shift when no suspected or confirmed COVID case has been in the area.
- Follow relaxed cleaning and disinfecting requirements in areas where infected persons have been. If less than 24 hours, the area must be cleaned and disinfected. If after 24 hours, then cleaning only. After 3 days, nothing is required beyond regular cleaning practices.
- Cleaning, not disinfecting, once-per-shift cleaning of common spaces, high traffic surfaces, doors unless no suspected or confirmed COVID cases have been in an area, in which case cleaning once per day is acceptable.
- No cleaning of shared tools, equipment, workspaces, and vehicles prior to transfer from one fully vaccinated employee to another.
- Verifying Employee Vaccination Status: The revised standard does not require employees to be vaccinated. Since there are additional requirements for employees who have not been fully vaccinated, the vaccination status of employees should be verified. The Final Permanent Standard permits an employer to rely on an employee’s representation of being fully vaccinated, without providing proof of vaccination.
- Updated Screening Requirements: Employers are required to have employees to report if they are experiencing any signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The revised standard limits the daily health assessment or screening requirement to higher-risk workplaces.
- Face Coverings: Employers are required to provide and require face coverings for employees who are not fully vaccinated, employees who are fully vaccinated employees in areas of substantial or high community transmission, and employees who are otherwise at-risk, with certain exceptions and accommodation requirements.
- Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan: Previously, the Final Permanent Standard only required employers with a very high or high exposure risk level, or that had 11 or more employees with a medium exposure risk level to have an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. Now, any health care or health care support employer as well as any employers with higher-risk workplaces with 11 or more employees must have an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. When counting the employees, the employer may exclude fully vaccinated employees. The deadline for the plan development is October 8, 2021.
- Training: Training is required on the hazards and characteristics of the COVID-19 disease for employees working in health care and health care support settings, and higher-risk workplaces. Fully vaccinated employees need only be provided with written information on certain specific topics, while unvaccinated employees are subject to enhanced training and topics. The deadline for training is November 7, 2021.
- Reporting: The Final Permanent Standard has been revised to align the reporting requirements to Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) to match the reporting requirements to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). Under the amendments, employers must report to both DOLI and VDH when it has 2 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its own employees present at the place of employment within a 14-day period, within 24 hours of the discovery.
PRINTING United Alliance continues to follow all state regulatory issues. For more information, or if you have questions on this or any other state regulatory program, please contact Marci Kinter, firstname.lastname@example.org; Gary Jones, email@example.com, or Adriane Harrison, firstname.lastname@example.org.