Va. first state to adopt statewide emergency workplace safety measures
Standards require social distancing mandates, face coverings, frequent cleaning, case tracking
Virginia is the first state to adopt statewide emergency workplace safety measures, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.
“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” Northam said in a statement. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements.
“Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted today to approve an emergency temporary standard requiring the following:
- Mandate social distancing and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions when social distancing is not possible
- Provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer
- Clean high-contact surfaces regularly
- Notify all employees within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus
- Keep employees home for 10 days if they are known or suspected to be positive cannot return to work for 10 days, or until they receive two consecutive negative tests
“As a top state for workforce development, it should be no surprise that Virginia is also the first in the nation to establish such a robust set of emergency workplace safety regulations,” Megan Healy, chief workforce development adviser, said in a statement. “Our workers are our greatest asset, and I am confident that these temporary standards will provide Virginians with the peace of mind they need to return to work and fuel the commonwealth’s economic recovery.”
Safety rules are intended to protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans. Guidelines also include record keeping, training and hazard communications.
“Today, Virginia has taken a step forward in putting our working families and frontline workers first,” Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris Crouse-Mays said in a statement. “This passage of the Emergency Temporary Workplace Standards is an essential move towards boosting Virginia from the bottommost ranking of 51st for workers.”
The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates and training guidance can be found on the Virginia Department of Labor’s website. Workers who feel unsafe at their workplaces can also file formal complaints with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“It is our belief that such strong, practical standards that require state employers to improve workplace safety and conditions … will aid in mitigating further outbreaks within our commonwealth,” Crouse-Mays said in a statement. “This is a great victory for working people in Virginia to help protect our communities and families from this virus and reopen the economy safely.”