Virginia was the first state to implement its own workplace health and safety regulation addressing COVID-19. This was a response to the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) decision to not issue a workplace standard to address COVID-19. Virginia first issued a temporary standard, followed-up with a permanent one, which was subsequently revised in September 2021. Now, Virginia is proposing that the standard be rescinded.
Pursuant to Governor Youngkin’s first day Executive Order issued on January 15, 2022, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board met on February 16, 2022, and adopted the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s recommendation regarding revocation of the permanent standard. The recommendation was based on emerging scientific and medical evidence that the current widespread variants of the virus no longer constitute a grave danger to employees in the workplace.
The Board’s decision opened a 30-day Notice and Comment period on revoking the Permanent Standard. A public hearing will be held before a final vote on revocation. PRINTING United Alliance submitted comments supporting the proposal to rescind the permanent standard.
The comments reiterated previously submitted comments that there was not a need for a formal rulemaking implementing specific safety and health practices for this pandemic and that employee protection was best met by using guidance and existing enforcement authority. PRINTING United Alliance’s position is supported by the events that unfolded during the pandemic, especially when other agencies, namely the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OSHA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised their guidance on how to best protect the public and workers. The landscape of the evolving guidance quickly made certain provisions in initial and subsequent VOSH rule obsolete until the rule was amended to allow businesses to follow CDC guidelines and remain in compliance if those guidelines conflicted with the requirements of the rule.
It appears that the Permanent Standard will be repealed and once that happens, employers would no longer have to require masking indoors, enforce social distancing, maintain ventilation systems, report COVID-19 cases to the Virginia Department of Health, or provide COVID-19 training to employees, among other current requirements. In the meantime, employers should maintain their existing COVID-19 safety measures, as required under the Permanent Standard.
PRINTING United Alliance will continue to monitor the situation and provide an update should the rule be rescinded. For more information, or if you have questions on this or any other state regulatory program, please contact Marci Kinter, email@example.com; Gary Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Adriane Harrison, email@example.com.