Virginia Employers: New COVID-19 Workplace Standards Released — Requires Immediate Compliance

Many Virginia employers are unaware that new COVID-19 workplace standards were released and require immediate compliance. Local Virginia businesses created COVID Compliance Plans to easily and inexpensively help employers create the documents they need to comply with these new standards.

On Jan. 27, 2021, Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam released Virginia’s permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules.

Gov. Northam stated: “While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures … These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”

The new rules mandate appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across Virginia. The Permanent Standard replaces the Emergency Temporary Standard, which has been in place since July 2020. The Permanent Standard keeps many provisions from the Temporary Standard, but it has a few notable changes. The rules took effect on Jan. 27, 2021, and will remain in effect throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The Permanent Standard makes a few revisions to the Temporary Standard that employers should be aware of so they can comply with the new regulations, including: relaxing employer’s reporting obligations, only requiring an employer to report to the Virginia Department of Health when two or more employees test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period rather than reporting each positive case; modifying return to work requirements; explaining that face shields do not qualify as face coverings; and requiring employers in the very high-, high- and medium-risk categories to implement enhanced ventilation controls for air-handling systems.

The Permanent Standard continues the Temporary Standard’s “exposure risk level” categorization requirement. The specific standard that applies to a workplace depends on the exposure risk, hazards present and tasks undertaken by employees. A workplace’s risk level will be categorized as either lower, medium, high or very high.

While there are additional requirements for businesses specific to their exposure risk level, there are a set of requirements all employers in Virginia must comply with, including: informing employees of methods for self-monitoring COVID-19 symptoms and encouraging self-monitoring; implementing policies for employees to report when they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and notifying certain individuals and state organizations; developing a return to work plan; providing training to all employees; and enforcing social distancing and proper cleaning of the workplace. Additionally, employers with high and very high-risk levels or medium risk with 11 or more employees, must develop and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan.

Employers already in compliance with the Temporary Standard should review their current policies and procedures and revise them, if necessary, to comply with the new regulations. Proper compliance with this Permanent Standard can be confusing. General Counsel, P.C. has been following COVID-19 guidance very closely and has been working nonstop to help employers comply with changing regulations.

General Counsel, P.C. & Business Compliance, LLC

In an effort to make it easier for employers in Virginia to comply with COVID-19 employment regulations, local law firm General Counsel, P.C., in conjunction with Business Compliance, LLC, developed the COVID-19 Compliance Plans generator to help employers quickly and inexpensively comply with the requirements of the Permanent Standard. Developed by employment lawyers, Business Compliance LLC’s documentation packages provide the required documentation, training material and signage, all compiled into packages you can buy, download and put in place almost immediately to protect your workers and comply with the new Permanent Standard.

These packages will contain everything you need to comply and utilize easy-to-follow questions to ensure the package generated for you is tailored to your business. When you purchase these packages, you will get an employer checklist, employee checklist, a return-to-work plan, employee training slide-deck and, if applicable to your workplace risk exposure category, an infectious disease preparedness and response plan.

Merritt Green is the founder of General Counsel, P.C. of McLean, a full-service law firm providing comprehensive legal services for businesses ranging from start-up to multi-billion dollar organizations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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