Virginia Adopts Permanent COVID-19 Safety Standards for Employers

February 3, 2021

Update: On March 21, 2022, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board rescinded the commonwealth’s COVID-19 workplace safety regulations.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.

Virginia has adopted permanent COVID-19 safety rules for employers that will remain in effect as long as the commonwealth remains in a state of emergency. When that ends, the Safety and Health Codes Board will determine whether the need for the standard continues.

For the most part, the permanent standard follows the emergency standard issued in July 2020. A July 20, 2020, McGuireWoods alert, “Virginia Issues First-in-the-Nation COVID-19 Safety Rules for Employers,” discussed the features of the emergency standard. However, the new permanent standard includes important changes and mandates that employers should address.

Most notably, the permanent standard revises the process for clearing employees to return to work following infection. Employers may no longer use testing to accelerate returns to work. Under the new rules, symptomatic employees must stay out at least 10 days from the first appearance of symptoms; asymptomatic employees cannot return until 10 days have passed from the date of their positive test.

Employers also are no longer required to report each confirmed COVID-19 case to the Virginia Department of Health. Instead, an employer now must report when it has two or more confirmed cases over a 14-day period in employees who are present in the workplace.

The permanent standard contains additional mandates, including that employers must:

  • provide acceptable face coverings to employees who interface with customers or other individuals;
  • provide wraparound face shields to employees who cannot wear face coverings due to medical conditions;
  • implement hazard controls for employees required to share vehicles with others;
  • ensure that appropriate and feasible engineering controls are in place for air-handling systems (applicable to medium- and high-risk exposure jobs only); and
  • consider additional factors in assessing exposure risks as part of their Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans.

Finally, employers that implemented Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plans and conducted training required by the temporary standard should supplement both to account for the permanent standard’s new provisions. The permanent standard gives employers until March 26, 2021 to update plans and trainings.

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].