Virginia Issues First-in-the-Nation COVID-19 Safety Rules for Employers

July 20, 2020

Update: On March 21, 2022, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board rescinded the commonwealth’s COVID-19 workplace safety regulations. In their place, the commonwealth published guidance retaining select COVID-19 safety protocols. For more details, see our March 23, 2022 alert.

On July 15, 2020, Virginia became the first state in the nation to issue COVID-19 safety rules to employers. These rules will require employers to develop a series of safety precautions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, including drafting Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans and notifying coworkers within 24 hours after learning that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19.

The standard is anticipated to take effect during the week of July 27, 2020. This new standard includes the following types of mandates:

  • Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans. Employers must assess their workplace for hazards and tasks that can potentially expose employees to COVID-19. The standard guides employers that fall within “very high,” “high,” “medium” and “lower” risk categories. Employers with “very high” or “high” exposure risk, as well as employers with “medium” exposure risk and at least 11 employees, must develop and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan.
  • Preventative Measures. The standard mandates that employers implement a variety of safety measures, including requiring social distancing (and, in some circumstances, face masks), access to hand washing or sanitizer, and regular cleaning of the workplace.
  • Reporting COVID-19 Cases. The standard includes mandatory reporting obligations for employers who learn of a positive COVID-19 case in their workforce. Employers will be required to notify other employees, building owners and state government agencies, while still maintaining the privacy of the sick employee.
  • Return-to-Work Policies. The standard requires employers to develop a return-to-work policy for those known or suspected to have had COVID-19, using time-based, test-based or symptom-based strategies for limiting workplace exposure.
  • Training. Employers must train employees regarding these new rules, how COVID-19 is transmitted and typical COVID-19 symptoms. Employers must post this information in the workplace, too.

Virginia employers must comply with these regulations even if they are already complying with less-stringent federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) guidelines. Failure to comply could result in fines issued by Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health program, known as VOSH.

For assistance in complying with these new rules while maintaining productivity in the workplace, please contact the authors, other members of the McGuireWoods labor and employment team or your McGuireWoods contact.

McGuireWoods has established a COVID-19 Response Team to help clients navigate urgent and evolving legal and business issues arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Lawyers in the firm’s 21 offices are ready to assist quickly on questions involving healthcare, labor and employment, education, real estate and more. For assistance, contact a team member or email [email protected].