Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Labor and Industry
Safety and Health Codes Board
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6/22/20  10:48 pm
Commenter: Mr. James Anthony Murdoch Sr (CWA/NCPSO)

Working Staff in Virginia need your help, (CWA/NCPSO ) Union member/ Correctional Officer

Working people are in desperate need of a strong, enforceable standard to require their employers to plan for and protect them from COVID-19.  

The below improvements must be made to make sure the standard truly protects workers from this deadly virus:

  1. CWA_NCPSO A call to action[16581].docxThe provision allowing for employers to comply with CDC guidance as a replacement for following the Virginia standard must be removed. Voluntary guidance is never a substitute for an enforceable standard. Also, the CDC has watered down guidance during the pandemic due to industry desires instead of scientific reasoning and public safety. I understand our need to open the economy, but human life is the most important and safety is must, there must be firm guidelines set, to ensure safety of all employees in the state of Virginia.


  1. The standard must clearly recognize 1) airborne transmission of the virus (which requires higher levels of adequate respirators and social distancing), and 2) asymptomatic transmission of the virus (which requires high levels of protection and quick removal from work with paid leave and employer reporting of cases to public health department and OSHA, etc.). The scientific evidence is clear. We need more information to make it safer for all in the workplace. We need more PPE for 1st responders to ensure safety. (IE. N95 masks with ventilator system if possible).



  1. The risk categories in the proposal are misguided. They are not relevant to the current exposure and infection rates in workplaces. We now know that all workplaces where workers are in close contact with the public or their coworkers are at high risk of exposure, such as meatpacking and corrections, not just in healthcare settings. The standard must ensure that all workers are protected equally from the virus through requiring an exposure assessment, infection plan, controls, reporting and training in ALL at-risk workplaces. There must be a national standard to ensure safety in the work place, and more staffing and better pay are needed to increase the staffing of the department of corrections, the culture of how staff are treated needs to change, staff need to have a voice in this process, because after all staff are the ones on the front lines day in and day out, 24/7 365 days a year.


  1. The provision that leaves it up the employer to assess risk categories is extremely dangerous. The incentive to is too great place employees in lower risk categories for this to be left solely to the employer. Lacking set categorizations for employee tasks, employers must involve the workers who do the job, and their Labor Unions/Employee Associations where in place, in assessing any workplace for risk. It must be mandatory that risk categorization is a mutually agreed upon decision. We who work on the front lines are always at risk, so it would only be fair that we have a say, in what happens to us each day.


  1. The standard must include strong requirements for reporting and recordkeeping. These elements are currently weak or missing and are essential to quickly understand the location and severity of outbreaks and to target prevention measures. The issues involved have to do with work environment from heating and cooling systems, to the work place culture lets make it better, because this covid-19 has created “The New Normal” so lets take this time to step forward with new idea’s and really make a difference for all in the state of Virginia.



  1. This standard must also include provisions for workers who enter residences and other businesses where the employer does not control the environment. Due to the inability to ever know the risks involved, there must be a mandatory requirement of “Respirators” and not “Face Coverings” to be provided by the employer before entering. There also needs to be a requirement to provide gloves and other necessary PPE to protect the employee who enters these unknown locations. Finally, this standard must clearly state that the employee and not the employer has the final say, without fear of reprisal, on whether it is safe to enter the location. There have been issues on this subject where some try to get over on the system, then others who tell the truth get interrogated by VADOC Human resources, but not all just some. We need fairness and transparency, to ensure all are protected.


  1. Our Correctional/Detention Facilities have been hard hit with extremely high infection rates and outbreaks among both those incarcerated and officers and staff. As it has been unfortunately proven that the protections attempted by the Departments themselves have failed to stop the outbreaks and deaths from this deadly disease. The design of these facilities and interaction required does not allow social distancing or similar recommendations to limit the spread of the disease. This spread has happened even in cases where known Covid-19 cases were segregated in separate spaces. To categorize these facilities as “Medium” risk is a travesty given the rates of infection and deaths that we have seen, just in Virginia. These facilities must be categorized as “Very High” and appropriate steps mandated to protect everyone involved. We have some institutions which are very under staffed, but you won’t hear about that in the media, but depending the institution, you go to, staff get drafted at least 3 times in a week or better, so at that point staff don’t get the rest they need or the time they need to spend with there families.


We must pass a standard but need your help in making the changes necessary to truly keep us safe at work. We know our employers won’t do it willingly.


Mr. James Anthony Murdoch Sr 

CommentID: 83690