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Virginia board approves emergency workplace standards

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 7:22 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia is one of the first states in the nation to approve emergency workplace rules protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19.

Members of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board voted Wednesday to implement the Emergency Temporary Workplace Standard.

“Virginia will have the strongest statewide OSHA standard in the country right now,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

Bobo is thrilled with the new standard, and so are others who advocate for Virginia workers.

They say the new rules set a consistent and enforceable standard that will help businesses operate safely, and encourage employees to return to work with confidence.

“We know that our workers are our greatest asset,” Governor Ralph Northam said during a briefing Tuesday. “And we want to make sure that they can return to work safely.”

Business groups have raised concerns about the effectiveness of the new requirements, and the cost for employers already struggling to stay afloat.

But advocates, including Bobo, say the time and effort the Department of Labor and Industry and the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board devoted to the new standards will make a difference.

“They needed to take their time to do it right,” Bobo said. “They have done it right. And it is a really strong excellent standard that will protect workers in Virginia and it’s going to save lives. This will save lives in Virginia.”

The new Emergency Temporary Workplace Standard will take effect after it’s published in a Richmond newspaper. That should happen during the week of July 27.

The new rules will remain in place for six months, unless the board takes action to repeal them or replace them with a permanent standard.

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