A revised COVID workplace safety standard (“Standard”) went into effect on September 8, 2021, for virtually all private employers in Virginia. Covered employers are those covered by Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (“VOSH”) safety regulations. Covered employers are referred to in this Alert as “employers.”
The Standard establishes requirements applying to all employers and a subset of requirements applying to employers with higher-risk workplaces having certain categories of vulnerable employees. Currently almost the entire state of Virginia is in a phase of “high” COVID 19 transmission which means that almost all employers must comply with the mandatory requirements as well as the heightened requirements for higher-risk workplaces according to VOSH. Certain employers with healthcare settings are treated differently (see below).
To assist with implementing the revised Standard, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (“VDOLI”) issued updated Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”), along with links to updated resources.
Shifting the Focus to Vulnerable Employees and Higher-Risk Workplaces
The Standard shifts the COVID-19 response strategy from mitigating the risk of exposure for all employees to instead protecting certain vulnerable employees. The Standard establishes different rules for employers depending on (i) the presence of certain categories of employees in the workforce and (ii) whether the workplace is considered one of “higher risk.” As noted above, because of the state’s current phase of “high” transmission, virtually all workplaces are considered “higher-risk” as of today.
EMPLOYERS SUBJECT TO ADDITIONAL MEASURES ARE THOSE WITH:
- Unvaccinated / partially vaccinated employees;
- Employees that are “otherwise at-risk” (i.e. immunocompromised);
- Employees that work in a locality that has a “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 transmission rate; and
- Employees that work in certain workplaces where there is heightened risk due to workplace factors
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Virginia Department of Health’s (“VDH”) Level of Community Transmission website contains the data to determine a Virginia locality’s COVID-19 transmission rate.
As of the date of this Alert – almost every community in Virginia is at a “high” transmission level, and therefore almost every employer has employees that trigger additional measures (such as mandatory masking). A locality’s COVID-19 transmission level changes are reported weekly on the VDH’s website.
For more information, follow this link: https://www.eckertseamans.com/legal-updates/virginia-new-covid-safety-standard-for-employers-effective-september-8-2021