September 25, 2020
Jay Withrow, Director
Division of Legal Support, ORA, OPPPI, and OWP
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
600 E. Main Street, Suite 207
Richmond, VA 23219
RE: Comments of the Virginia Retail Federation
VA Department of Labor and Industry, Safety and Health Codes Board
Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19, 16VAC25-220
To Whom It May Concern:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s announced intent to Adopt a Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19, 16VAC25-220. We are commenting on behalf of Virginia Retail Federation. Virginia Retail Federation is the statewide retail association advocating on behalf of retailers large and small across the Commonwealth. Our members will be directly impacted by the attempt to implement one-size-fits-all COVID-19 Regulations on businesses throughout Virginia.
Virginia’s retail businesses need certainty and consistency in any regulatory program. This ensures that the regulated community understands the requirements of the program, and that all parties can work together to satisfy the regulatory requirements.
Our Members oppose the adoption of a Permanent Standard by The Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board. We assert that adopting 16VAC25-220 as permanent regulations is overly burdensome, unnecessary, and violates existing law. The science of COVID-19 is continuously being updated. Therefore, the CDC and OSHA guidelines are frequently updated to reflect this. If the Emergency Temporary Standard were to become permanent, it would continue to require businesses to comply with outdated regulations.
This is not the time to impose a permanent standard. The ETS has only just become fully implemented on the day that these public comments are due (September 25, 2020), so retailers have not had sufficient time and opportunity to voice the challenges of implementation of the ETS. In addition, there has not been evaluation of the ETS by DOLI analyzing how many businesses are out of compliance because of the failure to notify impacted businesses.
If the Board believes it should move forward with a Permanent Standard, it must include these important provisions:
In addition, Virginia Retail Federation requests that the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board issue an additional sixty (60) day comment period on 16VAC25-220 requesting that employers provide recommended improvements to the Emergency Temporary Standard for consideration by the Board.
We strongly urge the Board not to approve any amendments to the Regulations that would incorporate other infectious diseases. There is no one-size-fits-all plan to combat a wide variety of infectious illnesses.
As previously stated, we believe it is extremely unreasonable to apply one-size-fits-all COVID-19 Regulations to all employers across the Commonwealth. We recommend that the Board reject the regulations, establish a new sixty day public comment period for a revised ETS or abandon the ETS completely and rely upon the General Duty Clause and Federal, State and Industry guidance to protect workers as is been effectively done in the overwhelming majority of other States.
Jodi Roth Kate Baker
Virginia Retail Federation Virginia Retail Federation