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Administrative Regulations for the Virginia Occupational Safety ...
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16VAC25-60-30

16VAC25-60-30. Applicability to public employers.

A. All occupational safety and health standards adopted by the board shall apply to public employers and their employees in the same manner as to private employers.

B. All sections of this chapter shall apply to public employers and their employees. Where specific procedures are set out for the public sector, such procedures shall take precedence.

C. The following portions of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia shall apply to public employers: §§ 40.1-10, subdivision A 1 of § 40.1-49.4 A(1), 40.1-49.8, 40.1-51, 40.1-51.1, 40.1-51.2, 40.1-51.2:1, 40.1-51.3, 40.1-51.3:2, and 40.1-51.4:2.

D. Section 40.1-51.2:2 A of the Code of Virginia shall apply to public employers the Commonwealth and its agencies except that the commissioner shall not bring action in circuit court in the event that a voluntary agreement cannot be obtained.

E. Sections 40.1-7, 40.1-49.4 F, 40.1-49.9, 40.1-49.10, 40.1-49.11, 40.1-49.12, and 40.1-51.2:2 of the Code of Virginia shall apply to public employers other than the Commonwealth and its agencies.

F. If the commissioner determines that an imminent danger situation, as defined in § 40.1-49.4 F of the Code of Virginia, exists for an employee of the Commonwealth or one of its agencies, and if the employer does not abate that imminent danger immediately upon request, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry shall forthwith petition the governor to direct that the imminent danger be abated.

G. If the commissioner is unable to obtain a voluntary agreement to resolve a violation of § 40.1-51.2:1 of the Code of Virginia by the Commonwealth or one of its agencies, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry shall petition for redress in the manner provided in this chapter 16VAC25-60-300 B.

16VAC25-60-90

16VAC25-60-90. Release of information and disclosure pursuant to requests under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and subpoenas.

A. Pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (§ 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia) and with the exceptions stated in subsections B through H of this section, employers, employees and their representatives shall have access to information gathered in the course of an inspection.

B. Interview statements of employers, owners, operators, agents, or employees given to the commissioner pursuant to § 40.1-49.8 of the Code of Virginia are confidential. Pursuant to the requirements set forth in § 40.1-11 of the Code of Virginia, individuals shall have the right to request a copy of their own interview statements.

C. All file documents contained in case files which that are under investigation, and where a citation has not been issued, are not disclosable until:

1. The decision has been made not to issue citations; or

2. Six months has lapsed following the occurrence of an alleged violation.

D. Issued citations, orders of abatement, and proposed penalties are public documents and are releasable upon a written request. All other file documents in cases where a citation has been issued are not disclosable until the case is a final order of the commissioner or the court, except that once a copy of file documents in a contested case has been provided to legal counsel for the employer in response to a request for discovery, or to a third party in response to a subpoena duces tecum, such documents shall be releasable upon a written request, subject to the exclusions in this regulation section and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

E. Information required to be kept confidential by law shall not be disclosed by the commissioner or by any employee of the department. In particular, the following specific information is deemed to be nondisclosable:

1. The identity of and statements of an employee or employee representative who has complained of hazardous conditions to the commissioner;

2. The identities of employers, owners, operators, agents, or employees interviewed during inspections and their interview statements;

3. Employee medical and personnel records obtained during VOSH inspections. Such records may be released to the employee or his duly authorized representative upon a written, and endorsed request; and

4. Employer trade secrets, commercial, and financial data.

F. The commissioner may decline to disclose a document that is excluded from the disclosure requirements of the Virginia FOIA, particularly documents and evidence related to criminal investigations, writings protected by the attorney-client privilege, documents compiled for use in litigation, and personnel records.

G. An effective program of investigation and conciliation of complaints of discrimination requires confidentiality. Accordingly, disclosure of records of such complaints, investigations, and conciliations will be presumed to not serve the purposes of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia, except for statistical and other general information that does not reveal the identities of particular employers or employees.

H. All information gathered through participation in consultation services or training programs of the department shall be withheld from disclosure except for statistical data which that does not identify individual employers.

I. All information gathered through participation in voluntary protection programs of the department pursuant to § 40.1-49.13 of the Code of Virginia shall be withheld from disclosure except for statistical data that does not identify individual employers and for the following:

1. Participant applications and amendments, onsite evaluation reports, and annual self-evaluations;

2. Agency staff correspondence containing recommendations to the commissioner, approval letters, notifications to compliance staff removing the participants from the general inspection list, and related formal correspondence.

I. J. The commissioner, in response to a subpoena, order, or other demand of a court or other authority in connection with a proceeding to which the department is not a party, shall not disclose any information or produce any material acquired as part of the performance of his official duties or because of his official status without the approval of the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.

J. K. The commissioner shall disclose information and statistics gathered pursuant to the enforcement of Virginia's occupational safety and health laws, standards, and regulations where it has been determined that such a disclosure will serve to promote the safety, health, and welfare of employees. Any person requesting disclosure of such information and statistics should include in his written request any information that will aid the commissioner in this determination.

16VAC25-60-110

16VAC25-60-110. Discrimination Whistleblower discrimination; discharge or retaliation; remedy for retaliation.

A. In carrying out his duties under § 40.1-51.2:2 of the Code of Virginia, the commissioner shall consider case law, regulations, and formal policies of federal OSHA. An employee's engagement in activities protected by Title 40.1 does not automatically render him immune from discharge or discipline for legitimate reasons. Termination or other disciplinary action may be taken for a combination of reasons, involving both discriminatory and nondiscriminatory motivations. In such a case, a violation of § 40.1-51.2:1 of the Code of Virginia has occurred if the protected activity was a substantial reason for the action, or if the discharge or other adverse action would not have taken place "but for" engagement in protected activity.

Employee whistleblower activities, protected by § 40.1-51.2:1 of the Code of Virginia, include, but are not limited to:

1. Making any complaint to his employer or any other person under or related to the safety and health provisions of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia;

2. Instituting or causing to be instituted any proceeding under or related to the safety and health provisions of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia;

3. Testifying or intending to testify in any proceeding under or related to the safety and health provisions of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia;

4. Cooperating with or providing information to the commissioner during a worksite inspection; or

5. Exercising on his own behalf or on behalf of any other employee any right afforded by the safety and health provisions of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia.

Discharge or discipline of an employee who has refused to complete an assigned task because of a reasonable fear of injury or death will be considered retaliatory only if the employee has sought abatement of the hazard from the employer and the statutory procedures for securing abatement would not have provided timely protection. The condition causing the employee's apprehension of death or injury must be of such a nature that a reasonable person, under the circumstances then confronting the employee, would conclude that there is a real danger of death or serious injury and that there is insufficient time, due to the urgency of the situation, to eliminate the danger through resort to regular statutory enforcement. In addition, in such circumstances, the employee, where possible, must also have sought from his employer, and been unable to obtain, an abatement of the dangerous condition.

Disciplinary measures taken by employers solely in response to employee refusal to comply with appropriate safety rules and regulations shall not be regarded as retaliatory action prohibited by § 40.1-51.2:1 of the Code of Virginia.

B. A complaint pursuant to § 40.1-51.2:2 of the Code of Virginia may be filed by the employee himself or anyone authorized to act in his behalf.

The investigation of the commissioner shall include an opportunity for the employer to furnish the commissioner with any information relevant to the complaint.

An attempt by an employee to withdraw a previously filed complaint shall not automatically terminate the investigation of the commissioner. Although a voluntary and uncoerced request from the employee that his complaint be withdrawn shall receive due consideration, it shall be the decision of the commissioner whether further action is necessary to enforce the statute.

The filing of a retaliation complaint with the commissioner shall not preclude the pursuit of a remedy through other channels. Where appropriate, the commissioner may postpone his investigation or defer to the outcome of other proceedings.

C. Subsection A of § 40.1-51.2:2 of the Code of Virginia provides that the commissioner shall bring an action in circuit court when it is determined that a violation of § 40.1-51.2:1 of the Code of Virginia has occurred and a voluntary agreement could not be obtained. Subsection A of § 40.1-51.2:2 further provides that the court "shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown, to restrain violations and order appropriate relief." The court's authority to restrain violations and order appropriate relief includes the ability to issue penalties or fines to the employer that would be payable to the employee. In determining the appropriate level of penalties or fines, the court may look to subsections G, H, I, and J of § 40.1-49.4 of the Code of Virginia.

16VAC25-60-120

Part III
Occupational Safety and Health Standards

16VAC25-60-120. General industry standards.

A. The occupational safety or health standards adopted as rules or regulations by the board either directly or by reference, from 29 CFR Part 1910 shall apply by their own terms to all employers and employees at places of employment covered by the Virginia State Plan for Occupational Safety and Health.

B. The employer shall comply with the manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials and equipment, unless specifically superseded by a more stringent corresponding requirement in 29 CFR Part 1910. The use of any machinery, vehicle, tool, material or equipment that is not in compliance with any applicable requirement of the manufacturer is prohibited, and shall either be identified by the employer as unsafe by tagging or locking the controls to render them inoperable or be physically removed from its place of use or operation.

16VAC25-60-130

16VAC25-60-130. Construction industry standards.

A. The occupational safety or health standards adopted as rules or regulations by the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board either directly, or by reference, from 29 CFR Part 1926 shall apply by their own terms to all employers and employees engaged in either construction work or construction related activities covered by the Virginia State Plan for Occupational Safety and Health.

B. The employer shall comply with the manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials and equipment, unless specifically superseded by a more stringent corresponding requirement in 29 CFR Part 1926. The use of any machinery, vehicle, tool, material or equipment that is not in compliance with any applicable requirement of the manufacturer is prohibited, and shall either be identified by the employer as unsafe by tagging or locking the controls to render them inoperable or be physically removed from its place of use or operation.

1. C. For the purposes of the applicability of such Part 1926 standards, the key criteria utilized to make such a decision shall be the activities taking place at the worksite, not the primary business of the employer. Construction work shall generally include any building, altering, repairing, improving, demolishing, painting or decorating any structure, building, highway, or roadway; and any draining, dredging, excavation, grading or similar work upon real property. Construction also generally includes work performed in traditional construction trades such as carpentry, roofing, masonry work, plumbing, trenching and excavating, tunneling, and electrical work. Construction does not include maintenance, alteration or repair of mechanical devices, machinery, or equipment, even when the mechanical device, machinery or equipment is part of a pre-existing structure.

D. The employer shall comply with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Work Area Protection Manual in lieu of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (Part VI of the MUTCD, 1988 Edition, Revision 3, or Part VI of the MUTCD, Millennium Edition - referenced in 16VAC25-175-1926.200 through 16VAC25-175-1926.202) when working under a contract for construction, repair, or maintenance between the employer and the Commonwealth; agencies, authorities, or instrumentalities of the Commonwealth; or any political subdivision or public body of the Commonwealth when such contract stipulates employer compliance with the VDOT Work Area Protection Manual in effect at the time of contractual agreement.

2. E. Certain standards of 29 CFR Part 1910 have been determined by federal OSHA to be applicable to construction and have been adopted for this application by the board.

3. F. The standards adopted from 29 CFR Part 1910.19 and 29 CFR Part 1910.20 containing respectively, special provisions regarding air contaminants and requirements concerning access to employee exposure and medical records shall apply to construction work as well as general industry.

16VAC25-60-140

16VAC25-60-140. Agriculture standards.

A. The occupational safety or health standards adopted as rules or regulations by the board either directly, or by reference, from 29 CFR Part 1910 and 29 CFR Part 1928 shall apply by their own terms to all employers and employees engaged in either agriculture or agriculture related activities covered by the Virginia State Plan for Occupational Safety and Health.

B. For the purposes of applicability of such Part 1910 and Part 1928 standards, the key criteria utilized to make a decision shall be the activities taking place at the worksite, not the primary business of the employer. Agricultural operations shall generally include any operation involved in the growing or harvesting of crops or the raising of livestock or poultry, or activities integrally related to agriculture, conducted by a farmer or agricultural employer on sites such as farms, ranches, orchards, dairy farms or similar establishments. Agricultural operations do not include construction work as described in subdivision 1 subsection C of 16VAC25-60-130, nor does it do they include operations or activities substantially similar to those that occur in a general industry setting and are therefore not unique and integrally related to agriculture.

C. The employer shall comply with the manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials and equipment, unless specifically superseded by a more stringent corresponding requirement in 29 CFR Part 1910 or 29 CFR Part 1928. The use of any machinery, vehicle, tool, material or equipment that is not in compliance with any applicable requirement of the manufacturer is prohibited, and shall either be identified by the employer as unsafe by tagging or locking the controls to render them inoperable or be physically removed from its place of use or operation.

16VAC25-60-150

16VAC25-60-150. Maritime standards.

A. The occupational safety or health standards adopted as rules or regulations by the board either directly, or by reference, from 29 CFR Part 1915, 29 CFR Part 1917, 29 CFR Part 1918, and 29 CFR Part 1919 shall apply by their own terms to all public sector employers and employees engaged in maritime related activities covered by the Virginia State Plan for Occupational Safety and Health.

B. The employer shall comply with the manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials and equipment, unless specifically superseded by a more stringent corresponding requirement in Part 1915, 1917, 1918 or 1919. The use of any machinery, vehicle, tool, material or equipment that is not in compliance with any applicable requirement of the manufacturer is prohibited, and shall either be identified by the employer as unsafe by tagging or locking the controls to render them inoperable or be physically removed from its place of use or operation.

16VAC25-60-245

16VAC25-60-245. Take Use of administrative subpoenas to take and preserve testimony, examine witnesses, and administer oaths.

A. Subdivision 4 of § 40.1-6 of the Code of Virginia authorizes the commissioner, in the discharge of his duties, to take and preserve testimony, examine witnesses and administer oaths. In accordance with subdivision 5 of § 40.1-6 of the Code of Virginia, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry may appoint such representatives as are necessary to carry out the functions outlined in subdivision 4 of § 40.1-6 of the Code of Virginia. Such appointments shall be made in writing; identify the individual being appointed, the length of appointment, and the method of withdrawal of such appointment; and specify what duties are being prescribed.

B. The oath shall be administered by the commissioner's appointed representative to the witness as follows: "Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth."

C. Testimony given under oath shall be recorded by a court reporter.

D. Questioning of employers, owners, operators, agents or employees under oath shall be in private in accordance with subdivision 2 of § 40.1-49.8 of the Code of Virginia.

E. An employer's refusal to make an owner, operator, agent or employee available to the commissioner for examination under this section shall be considered a refusal to consent to the commissioner's inspection authority under § 40.1-49.8 of the Code of Virginia. Upon such refusal the commissioner may seek an administrative search warrant in accordance with the provisions contained in §§ 40.1-49.9 through 40.1-49.12 of the Code of Virginia, and obtain an order from the appropriate judge commanding the employer to make the subject owner, operator, agent or employee available for examination at a specified location by a date and time certain.

F. In accordance with § 40.1-10 of the Code of Virginia, if any person who may be sworn to give testimony shall willfully fail or refuse to answer any legal and proper question propounded to him concerning the subject of the examination under § 40.1-6 of the Code of Virginia, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Such person, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not exceeding $100 nor less than $25 or imprisoned in jail not exceeding 90 days or both. Any such refusal on the part of any person to comply with this section may be referred by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry to the appropriate attorney for the Commonwealth for prosecution.

16VAC25-60-260

Part VI
Citation and Penalty

16VAC25-60-260. Issuance of citation and proposed penalty.

A. Each citation shall be in writing and describe with particularity the nature of the violation or violations, including a reference to the appropriate safety or health provision of Title 40.1 of the Code of Virginia or the appropriate rule, regulation, or standard. In addition, the citation must fix a reasonable time for abatement of the violation. The citation will contain substantially the following: "NOTICE: This citation will become a final order of the commissioner unless contested within fifteen working days from the date of receipt by the employer." The citation may be delivered to the employer or his agent by the commissioner or may be sent by certified mail or by personal service to an officer or agent of the employer or to the registered agent if the employer is a corporation.

1. No citation may be issued after the expiration of six months following the occurrence of any alleged violation. The six-month time frame timeframe is deemed to be tolled on the date the citation is issued by the commissioner, without regard for when the citation is received by the employer. For purposes of calculating the six-month time frame timeframe for citation issuance, the following requirements shall apply:

a. 1. The six-month time frame timeframe begins to run on the day after the incident or event occurred or notice was received by the commissioner (as specified below), in accordance with § 1-210 A of the Code of Virginia. The word "month" shall be construed to mean one calendar month in accordance with § 1-223 of the Code of Virginia.

b. 2. An alleged violation is deemed to have "occurred" on the day it was initially created by commission or omission on the part of the creating employer, and every day thereafter that it remains in existence uncorrected.

c. 3. Notwithstanding subdivision 1 a2 1 ] of this subsection, if an employer fails to notify the commissioner of any work-related incident resulting in a fatality or in the in-patient hospitalization of three or more persons within eight hours of such occurrence as required by § 40.1-51.1 D of the Code of Virginia, the six-month time frame timeframe shall not be deemed to commence until the commissioner receives actual notice of the incident.

d. 4. Notwithstanding subdivision 1 a2 1 ] of this subsection, if the commissioner is first notified of a work-related incident resulting in an injury or illness to an employee(s) employee or employees through receipt of an Employer's Accident Report (EAR) form from the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission as provided in § 65.2-900 of the Code of Virginia, the six-month time frame timeframe shall not be deemed to commence until the commissioner actually receives the EAR form.

e. 5. Notwithstanding subdivision 1 a2 1 ] of this subsection, if the commissioner is first notified of a work-related hazard, or incident resulting in an injury or illness to an employee(s) employee or employees, through receipt of a complaint in accordance with 16VAC25-60-100 or referral, the six-month time frame timeframe shall not be deemed to commence until the commissioner actually receives the complaint or referral.

B. A citation issued under subsection A of this section to an employer who violates any VOSH law, standard, rule or regulation shall be vacated if such employer demonstrates that:

1. Employees of such employer have been provided with the proper training and equipment to prevent such a violation;

2. Work rules designed to prevent such a violation have been established and adequately communicated to employees by such employer and have been effectively enforced when such a violation has been discovered;

3. The failure of employees to observe work rules led to the violation; and

4. Reasonable steps have been taken by such employer to discover any such violation.

C. For the purposes of subsection B of this section only, the term "employee" shall not include any officer, management official, or supervisor having direction, management control, or custody of any place of employment which was the subject of the violative condition cited.

D. The penalties as set forth in § 40.1-49.4 of the Code of Virginia shall also apply to violations relating to the requirements for record keeping recordkeeping, reports, or other documents filed or required to be maintained and to posting requirements.

E. In determining the amount of the proposed penalty for a violation the commissioner will ordinarily be guided by the system of penalty adjustment set forth in the VOSH Field Operations Manual. In any event the commissioner shall consider the gravity of the violation, the size of the business, the good faith of the employer, and the employer's history of previous violations.

F. On multi-employer worksites for all covered industries, citations shall normally be issued to an employer whose employee is exposed to an occupational hazard (the exposing employer). Additionally, the following employers shall normally be cited, whether or not their own employees are exposed:

1. The employer who actually creates the hazard (the creating employer);

2. The employer who is either:

a. Responsible, by contract or through actual practice, for safety and health conditions on the entire worksite, and has the authority for ensuring that the hazardous condition is corrected (the controlling employer); or

b. Responsible, by contract or through actual practice, for safety and health conditions for a specific area of the worksite, or specific work practice, or specific phase of a construction project, and has the authority for ensuring that the hazardous condition is corrected (the controlling employer); or

3. The employer who has the responsibility for actually correcting the hazard (the correcting employer).

G. A citation issued under subsection F of this section to an exposing employer who violates any VOSH law, standard, rule or regulation shall be vacated if such employer demonstrates that:

1. The employer did not create the hazard;

2. The employer did not have the responsibility or the authority to have the hazard corrected;

3. The employer did not have the ability to correct or remove the hazard;

4. The employer can demonstrate that the creating, the controlling and/or or the correcting employers, as appropriate, have been specifically notified of the hazards to which his employees were exposed;

5. The employer has instructed his employees to recognize the hazard and, where necessary, informed them how to avoid the dangers associated with it;

6. Where feasible, an exposing employer must have taken appropriate alternative means of protecting employees from the hazard; and

7. When extreme circumstances justify it, the exposing employer shall have removed his employees from the job.

H. The commissioner's burden of proving the basis for a VOSH citation, penalty, or order of abatement is by a preponderance of the evidence.

I. The burden of proof in establishing an affirmative defense to a VOSH citation resides with the employer.