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Virginia Adopts First COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standard: Requirements for Hazards or Job Tasks Classified as “Moderate” Exposure Risk

This is our fifth and final Alert on Virginia’s groundbreaking emergency, temporary COVID-19 workplace safety standard. 

In the first, we summarized the standard’s general employer mandates. In the second, we covered infectious disease preparedness and response plans that the standard requires of covered employers with hazards or job tasks classified as “very high,” “high,” or “medium” exposure risk. In the third, we discussed the standard’s requirement that “very high,” “high,” and “medium” exposure risk employers train employees on the hazards and characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease. In the fourth, we focused on additional requirements applicable to employers with hazards or job tasks classified as “very high” or “high” exposure risk.

In this Alert, we summarize the standard’s requirements for employers with hazards and job tasks classified as “medium” exposure risk, defined here. Under the standard, those employers must implement several engineering controls, administrative controls, and work practices, as well as policies regarding personal protective equipment (PPE).
These are the highlights.

Required Engineering Controls

Covered employers must ensure that air-handling systems, where installed, are appropriate to address the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease-related hazards and job tasks that occur at the workplace. That is, those systems must:

  • be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; and
  • at least, comply with minimum American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards 62.1 and 62.2 (ASHRAE 2019a, 2019b), which include requirements for outdoor air ventilation in most residential and non-residential spaces, and ANSI/ASHRAE/ASHE Standard 170 (ASHRAE 2017a), which covers both outdoor and total air ventilation in healthcare facilities.

Required Administrative and Work Practice Controls

To the extent feasible, covered employers must implement the following administrative and work practice controls:

  • before each shift begins, screen or survey each covered employee to verify that they do not have COVID-19 signs or symptoms;
  • provide face coverings to non-employees in the workplace suspected to be infected with SARS-C0V-2 to contain respiratory secretions until they can leave the site for medical evaluation/care or to return home;
  • implement flexible worksites, such as telework;
  • implement flexible work hours, such as staggered shifts;
  • increase physical distancing between employees at the worksite to six feet;
  • increase physical distancing between employees and others, including customers, to six feet;
  • install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, etc., when doing so will aid in mitigating SARS-CoV-2 virus’s spread;
  • implement flexible meeting and travel options, such as telephone or video conferencing instead of in-person meetings, and postponing non-essential travel or events;
  • deliver services remotely, such as by telephone, video, and the internet;
  • deliver products through curbside pick-up or delivery;
  • provide, and require employees to wear, face coverings if due to the employees’ job tasks they cannot feasibly practice physical distancing from others, if a hazard assessment has determined that PPE, such as respirators or surgical/medical procedure masks, is not required for the job task; and
  • provide, and require employees in customer-facing jobs to wear, face coverings.

Required Personal Protective Equipment

Covered employers, not otherwise subject to OSHA’s General Industry Standards (Part 1910), must comply with the following requirements for SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease-related hazard assessment, and PPE selection:

  • assess the workplace to determine if SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 hazards or job tasks are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate PPE use; and 
  • provide for employee and employee representative involvement in the assessment.

If such hazards or job tasks are present, or likely to be present, the employer must:

  • except as otherwise required in the standard, select, and have each affected employees use, the PPE that will protect the affected employees from the SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease hazards identified in the hazard assessment;
  • communicate selection decisions to each affected employee;
  • select PPE that properly fits them;
  • verify that the required SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease workplace hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated, the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed, the hazard assessment date(s), and the document as a hazard assessment certification;
  • unless specifically addressed by an OSHA industry-specific standard applicable to the employer and providing for PPE protections to employees from the SARS-COV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease, such as Parts 1926, 1928, 1915, 1917, or 1918, follow OSHA §§1910.132 (general requirements), comply with Virginia’s general duty and respiratory protection requirements for that purpose; and
  • understand that PPE ensembles for employees in the “medium” exposure risk category will vary by work task, the results of the employer’s hazard assessment and the types of exposures employees have on the job.

Virginia’s new standard went into effect last week. So, any employers that are out of compliance should consult with their counsel and safety experts without delay.

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