Virginia Adopts Workplace Safety Standards for the Pandemic — May be Coming to a State Near You 

July 30, 2020

Virginia has become the first-in-the-nation to approve workplace safety standards to protect Virginia workers. Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order 63 in May that directed the Virginia Department of Labor to promulgate regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) Safety and Health Codes Board (VSHCB) approved these new emergency standards on July 15, 2020.

The Safety and Health Codes Board met through the early summer and voted to mandate standards regarding appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training and hazard communications in workplaces across the commonwealth. These temporary emergency standards will take immediate effect upon publication in a newspaper published in the city of Richmond. These temporary emergency standards will take immediate effect July 27 and will remain in place for six months. The agency has begun the process of making the regulations permanent.

They have identified four classifications of exposure risk: very high, high, medium, and lower risk.

Employers in all risk levels are to comply with:

  1. Exposure assessment and determination, notification requirements, and employee access to exposure and medical records.
  2. “Flexible” sick leave policies
  3. Return to work policies and procedures including testing, physical distancing, sanitation, and disinfecting
  4. Administrative and work practice controls (e.g. prescreening, access, signs, sanitization, flexible work schedules, etc.)
  5. Training (employers have 30 days to train employees on emergency standards)
  6. Written infectious disease preparedness and response plan within 60 days (those with 10 or less employees in medium, high, and very high risk)
  7. Building and facility owners must notify employer tenants of COVID-19 cases

For those employers with very high or high exposure risk additional requirements include:

  1. Engineering controls (e.g. air handling systems, isolation rooms, autopsy suites)
  2. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  3. Employee training (employers have 30 days to train employees on the emergency standards)

These standards are designed to supplement and enhance existing VOSH laws, rules, and regulations. Application will be based on the exposure risk level present or by job tasks undertaken by employees.

Very high risk jobs include medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures that involve aerosol-generating procedures (e.g. intubation, collecting specimens, autopsies).

High risk jobs include, doctors, nurses, cleaners, hospital staff (including field hospitals and testing sites), skilled nursing, dental care, primary care, blood donation, assisted living, nursing homes, first responders, mortuary services, etc.

Medium risk jobs include, poultry, meat, and seafood processing, agricultural and hand labor, commercial transportation of passengers by air, land, and water, schools, colleges and universities, daycare and afterschool settings, restaurants and bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores and pharmacies, manufacturing settings, indoor and outdoor construction settings, correctional facilities, retail stores, call centers, package processing settings, veterinary settings, personal care, salons and spas, venues for sports, entertainment, movies, theaters, and other forms of mass gatherings, homeless shelters, gyms and fitness centers, etc.


Share on LinkedIn


Jerry W. Kilgore

Chair, State Attorneys General

(804) 762-6916

Julia Ciarlo Hammond

Senior Principal, Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies

(804) 762-6920

Related Practices