Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted on March 21, 2022, to revoke the state OSHA agency’s COVID-19 standard covering all industry sectors, finding that COVID-19 no longer posed a “grave danger” to workers. Virginia’s agency, “VOSH,” was the first of the 22 states that operate their own OSHA programs to promulgate a COVID-19 standard in July 2020, and also was the first to make it a permanent rule – rather than an emergency temporary standard.
With the election of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA), there was immediately a call by him for the Board to rescind the rule, which had been enacted under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to combat COVID outbreaks in the state’s protein plants, health care facilities, correctional institutions, and other workplaces where close contact between workers indoors occurred. The rule was quite comprehensive and required worker training, improved indoor ventilation, masks or respiratory protection, sanitation measures, and reporting of outbreaks at a worksite.
The Standards Board’s vote to rescind the rule was 6-0 to and the rescission became effective upon publication in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper (the state paper of record). VOSH continues to encourage vaccination against COVID-19 and can still enforce existing VOSH/OSHA standards such as sanitation, respiratory protection, recordkeeping/reporting of COVID-19 work-related cases, and under the overarching “General Duty Clause.” The revocation does not block VOSH from promulgating another COVID-19 rule in the event that circumstances warrant it, such as a resurgence of work-transmitted cases due to a new variant. However, the same process used for the original rule – including approval by the Standards Board – would be required in the future.