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Employment Law Alert

Employment Law Alert – Virginia Adopts Emergency Workplace Safety Standards in Response to COVID-19

July 28, 2020

Effective July 27, 2020, Virginia has become the first state in the country to implement statewide workplace safety standards in response to the COVID-19 emergency.  The Emergency Temporary Standard (the “Standard”) was adopted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“VOSH”) to require employers to take affirmative steps to control, prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to and among employees and employers.  

The Standard is intended to supplement other VOSH laws and standards related to COVID-19, with directives correlated to the relative exposure risk levels of various workplaces.  

The Standard sets forth return to work protocols, requires implementation of physical distancing policies, details procedures for sanitizing and disinfecting, and delineates circumstances in which employers must provide personal protective equipment.  

Importantly, all employers are immediately required to conduct a workplace assessment of hazards and jobs with potential exposure to COVID-19.  Employers must then classify each job task according to the risk levels of exposure.  Upon completion of a thorough assessment, employers should familiarize themselves with the various risk level specific requirements, specifically with respect to the need to develop and implement a written Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan that applies to employers classified as having “very high”, “high”, or “medium” risk hazards or job tasks.  The Standard includes many considerations for employers when developing the Plan such as risks from the place of employment, employees’ individual risk factors, contingency plans, infection prevention measures, compliance with CDC guidance or Virginia orders, and more.  Employers with “lower” risk hazards or job tasks “shall 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.”

Although this Standard is currently slated to expire after six months or “upon expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency” VOSH may adopt this Standard, or some variation of it, as a permanent standard for Virginia employers going forward. 

More detailed information can be found on the VOSH Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources page.  

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this Alert or would like to discuss this topic further.  


The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the  Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group.