Last summer, Virginia became the first state to leapfrog OSHA and enact an emergency temporary standard (ETS) specifically targeted to limit the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace. Virginia’s action spurred similar action by a number of other states including California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Oregon.
We reported on Virginia’s ETS in our October OSHA newsletter and listed the various obligations imposed on employers in that state including:
- employers are required to conduct a hazard assessment for each job task or group of job tasks;
- label the risk as lower, medium, high or very high;
- provide training that covers the standard’s requirements and (iv) employers with a high or very high exposure risks as well as employers with a medium exposure risk and who had at least 11 employees were required to prepare an infectious disease preparedness response plan.
Even though Virginia’s ETS was not set to expire until January 26, 2021, and could have been extended another six months, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board chose to enact a permanent standard that nearly mirrors the ETS. The new permanent standard was passed by a vote of nine to four with one abstention and contains a few distinctions from the ETS. These distinctions include adding prison guards to the list of high hazard jobs and changing the reporting requirement such that an employer only has to report when it has two confirmed COVID cases within 14 days.
The new permanent rule is expected to take effect by month’s end.