Courtesy of Virginia Mercury
They didn’t take any final votes or even discuss the content of the proposed regulations, but a state board weighing what could become the country’s first pandemic workplace safety rules agreed in principal Wednesday to press ahead with the sweeping new mandates.
“In this moment, I think we need to take action,” said Milagro Rodriguez, a member of the state’s Safety and Health Codes Board, which has been tasked with vetting and approving emergency regulations that, among other things, would mandate social distancing in all workplaces and require employers to notify employees if a coworker tests positive for the virus.
In a 9-3 vote, the board declared COVID-19 represents an emergency hazard to all employees and employers in the state. They also voted down proposals to slow the rule-making process down by at least a week to allow in-person public comment, a concession sought by an industry representative on the board who argued that state workplace regulators already have the authority to address unsafe conditions related to the virus.
But the rules, which could go into effect as soon as they are adopted and published, ended up getting delayed anyway because the board adjourned before getting to the point where they would discuss the text of the regulations and potential amendments.
Instead, the nearly eight-hour meeting, held virtually via teleconference, was largely consumed by a broad overview of the COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on workplaces and obscure procedural elements of the rule-making process.
The board agreed to meet again at some point next week to finish their work.