Virginia Becomes the Latest State to Require COVID-19 Training

Virginia Becomes the Latest State to Require COVID-19 Training

  • Virginia has enacted a detailed set of regulations called an “Emergency Temporary Standard” aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 that include significant training obligations for many Virginia employers.
  • The goal of Emergency Temporary Standard’s training requirement is to educate employees on the hazards and characteristics of COVID-19.
  • Failing to comply with the training obligation could cause employers to incur a fine of up to $130,000. 

On July 17, 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor enacted an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) related to stopping the spread of COVID-19. The Emergency Temporary Standard carries the force of law, and creates a number of new obligations for employers operating in the Commonwealth of Virginia, all of which are aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia’s rules are “first-in-the-nation” (although several other states have similar training mandates in place), and were enacted “in the absence of federal guidelines.” Northam had previously approved authority for the Department of Labor to enact special regulations aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, and the ETS contains the latest set of rules employers must follow in order to keep their business active and avoid a potentially heavy fine.

Training Requirements

Section 80 of the ETS is entitled “Training,” and requires employers with hazards or job tasks classified from “medium” to “very high” risk of COVID-19 exposure to provide training to all employees working at the place of employment on the “hazards and characteristics” of COVID-19. The ETS states that the aim of the training shall be to enable all employees to recognize the signs, symptoms, and hazards of COVID-19 and to train employees on how to follow procedure in order to minimize those hazards. Employers have 60 days from the effective date of the ETS (expected the week of July 27, 2020) to meet their training obligation.

The Virginia ETS requires the following specific information to be included in the training program:

  • The requirements of the ETS;
  • The mandatory and non-mandatory recommendations in CDC guidelines and/or Virginia requirements the employer is complying with;
  • The characteristics and methods of transmission of COVID-19;
  • The signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 disease;
  • Risk factors of severe COVID-19 illness with underlying health conditions;
  • Awareness of the ability of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 persons to transmit the virus;
  • Safe and healthy work practices, including but not limited to:
    • Physical distancing
    • Disinfection procedures
    • Disinfecting frequency
    • Ventilation
    • Noncontact methods of greeting
  • The proper use and limitations of Personal Protective Equipment
  • The illegality of discrimination on the basis of:
    • Exercising the employee’s health and safety rights under the law
    • Voluntarily providing one’s own PPE
    • Raising a concern about infection control at his or her worksite
    • Refusing to enter a work location the employee feels is unsafe
  • The employer’s infectious disease preparedness and response plan.

Administrative Requirements

The ETS also requires employers to verify compliance with the training requirement by preparing a written certification record for those employees exposed to hazards or job tasks classified as “very high risk,” “high risk,” or “medium risk.” In addition to the employees’ signature, the certification must be maintained by the employer and must include:

  • The date of the training;
  • The person (or entity) who conducted (or provided) the training;
  • Information about the training received at a previous employer.

According to the ETS, employees must be retrained when conditions such as changes in the workplace or inadequacies in knowledge (among other conditions) reveal themselves. Importantly, the Emergency Temporary Standard does not state when and how often the retraining shall occur, should these conditions present.

While not required to receive training, those employees in “low risk” classifications are required to receive notice of the hazards and risks of COVID-19 either orally or in writing. While training (at least beyond the employer’ is not required of these employees per the ETS, all employees would benefit from the training so as to keep the workforce on an equal educational standard regarding this very important topic.

Risks of Non-Compliance

The Washington Post reported on July 15, 2020 that employers could face fines of up to $130,000 if the rules promulgated by the Emergency Temporary Standard are not met. For this reason alone, it is imperative that your organization contact Syntrio today for help meeting your training obligation. Syntrio’s COVID-19 training course is intended to meet the needs of employers in all states with training requirements associated with reopening or maintenance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitepaper: COVID-19 Mandatory Training Requirement Prior to Re-Opening Businesses

Legal research conducted in June 2020 revealed the existence of at least sixteen rules, regulations and/or governor-issued executive orders requiring or recommending some form of employee training on COVID-19 for businesses and other organizations. These requirements or recommendations appear as addenda to stay-at-home orders or as wholly new rules promulgated by governors or state agencies under authority of the governor.

Download the whitepaper here:

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