Virginia moves forward with nation’s first COVID-19 workplace safety standards


Virginia moved forward Monday with establishing COVID-19 safety rules for the workplace. The regulations set standards for cleaning and social distancing and employers who fail to comply could face fines.

“I hear that workers are scared,” said Kim Bobo, the executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

The coalition of faith groups from around the state focuses on economic, social and environmental injustice. Bobo told our sister-station WRIC the workers they hear from wonder if their employer has done all they can to protect them from getting the coronavirus and infecting others as many prepare to head back to work in Phase 3.

In addition, she says small business owners like herself could use some direction.

“I need guidance,” Bobo said. “I need someone to just tell me what I am supposed to do because it is a little confusing.”

The new emergency standards require employers to create procedures to keep infected people away from work, ensure flexibility with paid sick leave, create disinfecting plans, observe social distancing and require PPE. Bobo believes standards like this could have saved lives at a local long-term care facility where at least 50 died.

“If we had had the standards in place that are being proposed, we wouldn’t have seen the level of deaths at Canterbury,” she claimed.

However, some in the business community oppose the regulations, calling them one-size-fits-all mandates that won’t work for every industry.

Meanwhile, thousands of COVID-19 related workplace complaints have poured into Virginia. Hundreds of complaints filed with VOSH, The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health, programs are being investigated including 11 deaths.

“I know it is going to be hard on some businesses but this is a dangerous, dangerous thing and we could lose lives if we don’t do it,” Bobo told 8News.

Virginia’s Safety and Health Code Boards will hold one more session to tweak some of the language in the COVID-19 emergency standard. It’s slated to take effect July 15. Employers who fail to comply could be fined $13,000 for a single violation.

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