Virginia employers face a deadline today to implement new COVID-19 safety standards.
On July 15, the Safety and Health Codes Board adopted the COVID-19 Emergency Standard. The new mandate includes precautions like requiring employers to classify each job for exposure risk, develop policies for employees who have been exposed to COVID-19, and enforce social distancing.
The measures took effect on July 27, leaving a month for businesses to comply. The standards also require employers to regularly clean workspaces, provide handwashing facilities, and notify all employees within 24 hours if a coworker has a confirmed COVID-19 case.
Business philanthropist Pete Snyder said guidance like these standards would have been helpful in March or April. Now, most business owners have already developed strategies and policies to protect customers and employees. Snyder said, “This is too little, too late.”
McLean-based law firm General Counsel, P.C., said in a press release: “Compliance requires the implementation of written policies, procedures and employee training, and these documents are not optional. The Standard makes this documentation mandatory. Failure to comply could result in fines as high as $135,000 for repeat or willful violations, depending upon the severity of the violation.”
When the standards were announced in July, Governor Ralph Northam said the standards were a response to “federal inaction.” In a press release, he said, “Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”
Northam said Virginia was the first state to implement this kind of standard.
Although some businesses may not be aware of the new standard, Snyder thinks businesses have already met most of the requirements on their own. A few of the requirements are related to new documentation that businesses may have to create. Snyder said this is just another burden for business owners who already have to deal with pandemic related-problems. Snyder noted business owners may be struggling with costs for personal protective equipment and trying to juggle childcare concerns caused by school closures.
“The leadership in Richmond has been a complete and utter debacle from the very beginning of this, so surprise, surprise, they’re trying to add red tape and make this the responsibility of small business owners,” Snyder said.
– – –