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Virginia Adopts First COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standard: Mandatory Employee Training

This is our third Alert that addresses Virginia’s groundbreaking emergency, temporary COVID-19 workplace safety standard. 

The first summarized the standard’s mandates for all covered employers. The second addressed the standard’s requirement that covered employers with hazards or job tasks classified as “very high,” “high,” or “medium” exposure risk to known or suspected sources of the SARS-CoV-2 virus prepare and implement an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. This Alert summarizes the standard’s employee training requirements.

Employers with hazards or job tasks classified as “very high,” “high,” or "medium" exposure risk at the workplace, defined here, must train all employee working at that site, regardless of employee’s risk classification, on the hazards and characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease. The training program must enable employees to recognize the hazards of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and signs and symptoms of COVID-19 disease and must instruct each employee on the procedures to be followed to minimize those hazards.

The training must address:

  • The requirements of Virginia’s COVID-19 workplace safety standard;
  • The mandatory and non-mandatory recommendations contained in any CDC guidelines or Virginia guidance documents with which the employer is complying in lieu of a provision of Virginia’s standard;
  • The characteristics and methods of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus;
  • The signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 disease;
  • Risk factors of severe COVID-19 illness with underlying health conditions;
  • The ability of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people with COVID-19 to transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus;
  • Safe and healthy work practices, such as physical distancing, disinfection procedures, disinfection frequency, ventilation, noncontact methods of greeting;
  • PPE, including:
    • When PPE is required;
    • What PPE is required;
    • How to properly don, doff, adjust, and wear PPE;
    • The limitations of PPE;
    • The proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of PPE; and
    • Heat-related illness prevention including the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.
  • The standard’s prohibition against discrimination; and
  • The employer’s infectious disease preparedness and response plan, where applicable.

Covered employers must verify compliance with those training requirements by preparing a written certification for those employees exposed to hazards or job tasks classified as “very high,” “high,” or “medium” exposure risk levels. The certification must include the name or other unique identifier of the trained employee, the employee’s physical or electronic signature, the training date(s), and the name of the person who conducted the training, or for computer-based training, the name of the person who or entity that prepared the training materials.

If the employer relies on training that another employer conducted or that was completed before the standard’s effective date, the certification must indicate the date on which the employer determined that the prior training was adequate rather than the actual training date. Covered employers must maintain the latest certification.

When the employer has reason to believe that any affected employee who has been trained does not have the understanding and skill that the training requirements contemplate, the employer must retrain the employee. Circumstances in which retraining is required include, those in which:

  • The previous training has become obsolete due to changes in the workplace, SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease hazards exposed to, or job tasks performed;
  • Changes are made to the employer’s infectious disease preparedness and response plan; or
  • Inadequacies in an affected employee's knowledge or use of workplace control measures indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill.

Employers with hazards or job tasks classified at “lower” risk must provide written or oral information to employees exposed to such hazards or engaged in such job tasks on the hazards and characteristics of SARS-COV-2 and the symptoms of COVID-19 and measures to minimize exposure. At a minimum, that information must include:

  • The standard’s requirements;
  • The characteristics and methods of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus;
  • The symptoms of the COVID-19 disease;
  • The ability of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people infected with COVID-19 to transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus;
  • Safe and healthy work practices and control measures, including physical distancing, sanitation, and disinfection practices; and
  • The standard’s prohibition against discrimination.

The standard’s training mandates on an employer’s infectious disease preparedness and response plans take effect 60 days after the standard’s effective date. All other training requirements take effect 30 days after the standard’s effective date.

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