Virginia becomes the first state in the U.S. to permanently enact COVID-19 workplace safety and health standards.

Governor Ralph Northam approved the standard adopted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board. The workplace safety standards mandate PPE (personal protective equipment) as well as contact-tracing or record-keeping, sanitation and social-distancing, as well as training and emergency communications within the workplace.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry will enforce the permanent standard.

“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” said Governor Northam. “I am grateful to the many businesses and organizations who have been with us throughout this process and continue to take the necessary steps to operate safely. These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers, and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”

In the absence of a federal standard, Virginia took action last year to create the nation’s first emergency temporary workplace safety and health requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The permanent standards align closely with the emergency temporary rules adopted in July and are intended to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and protect Virginia workers. The temporary standards were effective for six months and the Board worked to make permanent through the process defined in state law. These workplace safety requirements will remain effective throughout the pandemic. The Board will reconvene within 14 days of the expiration of Governor Northam’s COVID-19 emergency declaration to determine whether there is a continued need for the standard.

In addition to requiring all public-facing employees to wear masks, the standards ensure ready access to hand sanitizer and the regular cleaning of common work spaces. Employers must train employees on COVID-19 safety and to develop infectious disease and preparedness response plans. The new permanent regulations include guidelines for returning to work and communicating about employees who test positive and potential exposures. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry will enforce the permanent standard.