Members of the Safety and Health Code Board,
As an Project Manager in the heavy construction industry, I oppose adopting a Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19, 16VAC25-220.
· Construction is an essential business performing critical work in the Commonwealth since the onset of the pandemic. The health and safety of all employees is the top priority of our company. A culture of safety is our primary operating principle. We implemented the CDC and OSHA COVID-19 guidelines for construction as soon as they were published and are in compliance with the CARES Act mandates.
· Construction worked for four and a half months under CDC and OSHA guidelines before the Emergency Temporary Standard became effective, July 27,2020. During those months we implemented critical safety measures to ensure the health of our employees. The federal guidelines for construction were working and additional regulations were duplicative and unnecessary.
· The science of COVID-19 is continuously being updated. The CDC and OSHA guidelines are frequently updated to reflect the science. The Emergency Temporary Standard, proposed in April 2020, is outdated and inflexible. If the standard were to become permanent, it would continue to require businesses to comply with outdated regulations. What was thought to be true about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in April, is no longer accurate. As an example, the disinfection standard requirements are based on practices that now may not provide meaningful reduction in transmission. An hour or more a day is spent disinfecting tools and equipment. It is time consuming and burdensome to continue with practices no longer scientifically relevant.
· The costs of the required training (16VAC25-220-70 and 16VAC25-220-80) average a total of 2 hours per employee. Developing the Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan (16VAC25-220-70), not including implementation, requires approximately 40 hours by a supervisory level employee. These hours are in addition to and impede other job functions.
· Non-medically trained individuals now are required to perform health screenings. Screening each crew on average, takes thirty minutes at the start of a shift. Individuals must take accountability for their own health and not report to work if they are exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19. After six months, Virginians should be very well aware of those symptoms. Our company, as mandated by the CARES Act, provides the Paid Sick Leave necessary for employees to stay home if they are ill.
· Construction tasks fall into the “Low” and “Medium” categories as defined in 16VAC25-220-30. The standards use “Grave” danger to regulate ALL businesses in Virginia, yet the great majority of deaths in Virginia (79% or 2269 as of September 23rd Virginia Department of Health Dashboard) were patients over the age of 70. As it is unlikely many over the age of 70 were actively still in the workplace, that leaves 613 deaths over 6 months or a death rate in Virginia of.007% based on a population of 8,536,000 (2019 US Census Bureau). Further, 54% (1556) of deaths were patients in long-term care and correctional facilities. As not all of those deaths fall into the over 70 category, that means less than 613 deaths were potentially working Virginians. Where they were exposed to the virus is not provided in the data. The definition of “Grave” danger for “low” and “medium” risk category needs to be revisited. These categories should be removed from the Temporary Standard and never be part of any Permanent Standard.
I am opposed to any amendment to include other flus, viruses, colds, or other communicable diseases in any permanent standard. There is no one-size fits all plan to combat a wide variety of infectious illnesses.
The Emergency Standards are burdensome, obsolete, difficult to enforce, costly in time and money, and lack flexibility to adapt to current science and innovation. I am STRONGLY OPPOSED to the adoption of these as a Permanent Standard for what is a temporary health situation.
I remain committed to the health and safety of my coworkers/employees and thank you for the opportunity to publically comment.