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Virginia Becomes the First State to Enforce Mandatory COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules

Virginia Becomes the First State to Enforce Mandatory COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules

The Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (“VSHCB”) approved an emergency temporary standard to issue mandatory COVID-19 workplace safety requirements and regulations on July 15, 2020 by a 9-2 vote. These mandatory requirements are expected to include obligations surrounding flexible sick leave policies, the promotion of social distancing, policies to identify workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, and policies to determine when workers known or suspected to have had COVID-19 are able to return to the workplace. 

When announcing these new mandatory rules, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said they were being enacted due to the absence of federal guidelines. The Department of Labor (DOL) and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have repeatedly said they do not intend to propose a nationwide rule regulating COVID-19 measures and protections in the workplace. Instead, OSHA has issued temporary enforcement guidance and indicated it will rely on the OSHA Act’s general duty clause which requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. 

The majority of employers in Virginia will soon be required to follow an emergency temporary standard establishing workplace safety rules to limit the risks of COVID-19 exposure to workers. The new standard is likely to come into effect in late July and will apply to most private employers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as to state and local employees.  It appears that employers who violate the new rules may be subject to significant fines.

Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal OSHA. The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at

This information provided on this website is meant to provide general information and does not constitute as legal/ medical advice.

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