Virginia Mandates COVID-19 Training for Employees in Certain Workplaces

Virginia employers must provide Covid-19 safety training to all employees by August 26, 2020, if any job hazard or task in the workplace is classified other than “lower risk” of exposure to COVID-19. 

Update: The Virginia Department of Labor and Industries issued a statement that the Department intends to adopt a Proposed Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention for COVID-19, within six months, with an effective date no later than January 27, 2021. The language of the Proposed Permanent Standard is based on the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which was adopted on July 15, 2020.

Workplace Hazard Assessment

The ETS requires all employers to assess and classify job hazards and tasks based on “exposure risk level” and to implement certain workplace safety practices, including training, based on the risk level. Job hazards and tasks must be classified by the employer as “very high risk,” “high risk,” “medium risk,” or “lower risk” of potential exposure to the coronavirus.

All “lower risk” places of employment must provide employees with basic written or oral information on COVID-19 hazards and measures to minimize exposure. Providing the training required for job hazards or tasks otherwise classified as higher risk also meets this requirement. 

Employers must also maintain certification for each employee trained, including the name of the employee trained, his/her physical or electronic signature, and the name of the person or company that provided the training.

Retraining is required when the employer has reason to believe that any affected employee who has already been trained does not have the necessary understanding and skill required, such as changes in the workplace or job tasks performed, changes to the employer’s Infectious Disease and Preparedness Plan (as discussed below), or inadequacies in an affected employee’s knowledge or use of workplace control measures indicate the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill.

The mandatory job hazards and task classifications and other requirements of the standard are discussed below.

Job Tasks Exposure Assessment

The new standard requires employers to conduct workplace assessments for hazards or job tasks that could potentially expose employees to the coronavirus. Employers must classify each job task as very high risk, high risk, medium risk, or lower risk of exposure. 

Factors to be considered in determining exposure risk level include, but are not limited to:

  • the job tasks being undertaken;
  • whether the work environment is indoors or outdoors;
  • the known or suspected presence of the coronavirus;
  • the presence of a person known or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus;
  • the number of employees and other persons present in relation to the size of the work area;
  • the working distance between employees and other employees or persons;
  • the duration and frequency of employee exposure through contact inside of six (6) feet with other employees or persons, including shift works exceeding eight (8) hours per day; and
  • the type of hazards encountered, including:
    • potential exposure to the airborne transmission of coronavirus; 
    • contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as tools, workstations, or breakroom tables, and shared spaces such as shared workstations, break rooms, locker rooms, and entrances and exits to the facility; 
    • shared work vehicles; and 
    • industries or places of employment where employer-sponsored shared transportation is a common practice, such as ride-share vans or shuttle vehicles, car-pools, and public transportation.

Job Classifications

Very high risk hazards or job tasks are those in places of employment with high potential for employee exposure to known or suspected sources of the coronavirus (e.g.,  laboratory samples) or persons known or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus, including during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures.

High risk hazards or job tasks are those in places of employment with high potential for employee exposure inside six (6) feet with known or suspected sources of COVID-19, or with persons known or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus that are not otherwise classified as very high exposure risk, such as healthcare delivery and support services, wellness services, non-medical support services, first responder services, medical transport services, medical transport services, or mortuary services provided to a person with the coronavirus.

Medium risk hazards or job tasks are those not otherwise classified as very high or high exposure risk in places of employment that require more than minimal occupational contact inside six (6) feet with other employees, other persons, or the general public who may be infected with the coronavirus, but who are not known or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus. 

Lower risk hazards or job tasks are those not otherwise classified as very high, high, or medium exposure risk that do not require contact inside six (6) feet with persons known or suspected of being or who may be infected with the coronavirus. Employees in this category have minimal occupational contact with other employees, other persons, or the general public, such as in an office building setting; or are able to achieve minimal occupational contact through the implementation of engineering, administrative and work practice controls, including but not limited to installation of floor to ceiling physical barriers, telecommuting, staggered work shifts, remote delivery services, and physical distancing. 

Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan

Additionally, an employer is required to develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan by September 25, 2020, when:

  • the employer has eleven (11) or more employees and jobs classified as medium risk; or
  • the employer has jobs classified as high or very high risk, regardless of the number of employees.

The content requirements for the Plan varies according to the type of job tasks classified in the workplace.

Mandatory Requirements for All Employers

The new standard also specifies certain requirements that all employers must take to protect employees from workplace exposure to the coronavirus, regardless of exposure risk levels, including the following:

  • physical distancing and face covering requirements;
  • sanitizing and disinfecting procedures and protocols;
  • controlled access to common areas, breakrooms, and lunchrooms in certain circumstances;
  • appropriate personal protective equipment (“PPE”) if employees are required to share a vehicle for work;
  • exposure and risk assessment and determination;
  • employee access to exposure and medical records; 
  • certain notice and posting requirements;
  • serological testing prohibitions; 
  • flexible sick leave policies, including Families First Coronavirus Response Act;
  • providing information to employees about self-monitoring for Covid-19 symptoms, the reporting procedures when they have Covid-19 symptoms, and when not to report to work until cleared for return consistent with the new standard; 
  • discussing with subcontractors the importance of staying home for persons who are known or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus; 
  • establishing a HIPAA-compliant system to receive reports of positive coronavirus tests by employees, subcontractors, contract employees, and temporary employees and notification requirements to employees and building owners consistent with the ADA and the Virginia Department of Health;
  • employee access to his/her own coronavirus and COVID-19 disease-related exposure and medical records in accordance with the standards applicable to its industry;
  • development of policies and procedures for employees known or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus to return to work using either a symptom-based or test-based strategy, depending on the local healthcare and testing circumstances, and as outlined in the new standard; 
  • development of policies and procedures for asymptomatic employees known to be infected with the coronavirus to return to work using either a time-based or test-based strategy, depending on the local healthcare and testing circumstances, and as outlined in the new standard; and
  • other health and safety requirements based on job hazards and task classification in the workplace.

Non-Discrimination

An employer may not discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee because: 

  • the employee has exercised rights under the safety and health provisions for his/herself or others of the Virginia Labor Code (Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia) and corresponding regulations (16VAC25-60-110);
  • the employee voluntarily provides and wears the employee’s own face covering or PPE, including but not limited to a respirator, face shield, or gloves, if such equipment is not provided by the employer, provided the PPE does not create a greater hazard to the employee or create a serious hazard for other employees;
  • the employee raises a reasonable concern about infection control related to the coronavirus or COVID-19 disease to the employer, the employer’s agent, other employees, a government agency, or to the public such as through print, online, social, or any other media; 
  • the employee refuses to work or enter a location that s/he feels is unsafe; or
  • the employee refuses to complete an assigned task because of reasonable fear of injury or death.

Expiration of Emergency Temporary Standard

The Emergency Temporary Standard is effective until six months from its effective date – January 27, 2021.

However, as noted above, The Virginia Department of Labor and Industries issued a statement that the Department intends to adopt a Proposed Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention for COVID-19, within six months, with an effective date no later than January 27, 2021. The language of the Proposed Permanent Standard is based on the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which was adopted on July 15, 2020.

Clear Law Institute’s Training

Clear Law Institute’s interactive online COVID-19 Safe Workplace Training complies with CDC and OSHA guidelines, as well as industry best practices. The online training is self-paced and fully narrated and includes numerous interactive animations, video demonstrations, and exercises to keep employees engaged. 

Clear Law Institute provides online training to more than 1,000 employers, handles training roll-out to employees, supports tech issues, and tracks course completions.

Click here to learn more and receive a FREE TRIAL of Clear Law Institute’s COVID-19 Safe Workplace Training.

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