Virginia is considering strict new workplace safety requirements for businesses that are now reopening. And, the proposed standard is controversial in the business community.
Companies across Virginia could be required to follow significant, new sanitation guidelines, make arrangements for physical distancing and notify workers when anybody in the workplace is exposed to COVID-19. These are some of the new mandates under consideration by the Virginia Health and Safety Board.
Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says these new requirements would be a lot of red tape and paperwork at a time when businesses are already struggling with the economic crisis.
“It’s never been the case with colds and flu and other types of viral diseases that you can pick up pretty much anywhere in the world," explains Haner. "So it’s not been considered a workplace illness as opposed to, say, you got exposed to a bad chemical or you broke your arm or something like that.”
Virginia would be the first state to have these kinds of workplace requirements this strict for all businesses. Jason Yarashes at the Legal Aid Justice Center says Virginia has an opportunity here to be on the vanguard rather than just being a laggard.
“Virginia is in a good position to be a leader and be on the right side of history here and be a model for other states in the south and across the nation to show that we’re not just protecting businesses during this historic pandemic, but we’re also protecting the workers that keep all the businesses and the economy afloat,” he says.
Business groups are pushing for a public hearing before any of these emergency standards are put in place.