Virginia Employers Face Additional COVID-19 Compliance Hurdles
Virginia has recently amended its “Final Permanent Standard” for COVID-19 health and safety requirements. The new changes went into effect on October 8, 2021 and apply to anyone with employees in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and anyone doing business within the Commonwealth. This means that employers with temporary employees and/or potentially contractors within that jurisdiction will have to comply with the requirements of Chapter 16, section 225-220 et. Seq.
Among the changes to the Final Standard include a requirement (16VAC-220-40) that employers have a policy in place to ensure the safeguarding of workplaces against the spread of COVID-19. A key feature of this policy requirement is employers must have a practice in place for the anonymous reporting of violations of the required policy. This means those employers who do not currently have a hotline available for use by their employees (or anyone working for them), or some other mechanism for anonymous complaints are already out of compliance, as everything contained in the law except for the training requirements in 16VAC-220-80 must already be in place.
Additional features of the policy required by 16VAC-220-40 include (but are not limited to) requiring that employers must:
- Have a component ensuring unvaccinated/otherwise at-risk employees physically distance;
- Close or segregate common areas based on vaccination status;
- Require unvaccinated employees to mask, with some exceptions;
- Require at least once-per-shift cleaning (not disinfecting) of common spaces, high traffic surfaces, doors unless no suspected or confirmed COVID cases have been in an area, in which case cleaning once per day is fine; and
- Employers need not require shared tools, equipment, workspaces, and vehicles to be cleaned prior to transfer from one fully vaccinated employee to another.
It is extremely important to consult with a Virginia health and safety attorney to ensure that your organization is adequately complying with the ever-changing regulatory requirements on workplace COVID-19 safety. We recommend consulting with a Virginia attorney to draft and formulate a policy and practice that complies with all COVID requirements. After doing so, we encourage you to contact Syntrio so that we can help you utilize our anonymous hotline to receive complaints of potential COVID-19 safety violations. We look forward to working with you to help keep your employees safe and working free from the threat of the spread of COVID-19.