With COVID-19 vaccines becoming more readily available in the U.S. and a larger percentage of individuals having been vaccinated, businesses are beginning to reopen or expand in-the-office activity in Northern Virginia and across the Commonwealth. Businesses, both large and small, should be giving serious thought to the COVID-19 workplace safety policies and procedures that all are required to have in place to achieve appropriate workplace safety for employees and customers whenever re-opening day arrives.
While the perception also seems to be growing that employees, now protected against the virus, can just stop wearing their face coverings and employers may no longer need to be concerned about workplace safety, that is not the case, as made clear in the most recent federal guidance from the OSHA and CDC on preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. At the state level, Virginia is one of a small group of jurisdictions that has adopted comprehensive COVID-19 workplace safety regulations. Enforced by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) they are applicable to virtually all private-sector employers in Virginia and became final and permanent at the end of January 2021.
Mandatory Virginia COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policies and Practices
Virginia’s COVID workplace safety regulations are applicable to virtually all private-sector places of employment in the Commonwealth and establish minimum requirements for employers to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The extent of applicability of the COVID Regulations is tied directly to the exposure risk level presented by COVID-19 virus-related and COVID-19 disease-related hazards present or job tasks undertaken by employees in your particular place of employment (i.e., “very high”, “high, “medium”, and “lower” risks), based on a list of risk factors identified by the DOLI. Compliance for all employers, irrespective of risk level, must include the following:
- A COVID-19 workplace exposure assessment to evaluate your workplace for hazards and job tasks that can potentially expose employees or third parties to the coronavirus or COVID-19 disease, using DOLI-defined criteria.
- Training for all employees meeting the DOLI’s specific requirements to enable your employees to recognize the hazards of the COVID-19 virus and signs and symptoms of COVID-19 disease.
- Based on the workplace exposure assessment and the exposure risk level presented by COVID-19 in your particular place of employment (i.e., “very high”, “high, “medium”, and “lower” risk levels), implement a set of written policies and practices that, among other things, must include: (1) procedures to identify and exclude employees or other persons known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19 virus from your workplace; (2) a system to receive reports of positive COVID-19 tests by employees or other third parties present in your place of employment within the previous 14 days from the date of COVID positive test; (3) notification to certain required parties within 24 hours of discovery of possible exposure: (4) a set of symptoms-based Return to Work Requirements for employees known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19; and (5) other DOLI-mandatory return to work requirements and workplace restrictions applicable to all employers.
Note that for workplaces classified as “Very High” “High” and, in some cases, “Medium” virus exposure risks, the DOLI requires additional COVID-19 workplace safety measures for, including:
- A written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan.
How Bean Kinney Can Help
Bean Kinney’s employment law practice group has extensive experience in health, safety and employment-related issues and can provide you with quick, cost-effective assistance in implementing COVID-19 vaccine policies and practices that are compliant with the Virginia DOLI’s comprehensive workplace safety regulations and meet federal guidelines promulgated by OSHA and the CDC, while considering your business model and desired approach. We can address your concerns about what COVID-19 questions you can ask your employees, or whether or under what circumstances you can require COVID-19 vaccines for your employees.
If you need assistance with COVID-19-related issues or questions, please contact Doug Taylor at (703) 525-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org or your current Bean, Kinney & Korman attorney.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. Consult a lawyer. Any views or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of any client.