Oppose Permanent Infectious Standard
AFFILIATE OF NATIONAL SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL SURVEYORS
10340 DEMOCRACY LANE, SUITE 300
FAIRFAX, VA 22030
September 25, 2020
Safety and Health Codes Board
Department of Labor & Industry
600 East Main Street, Suite 207
Richmond, Virginia 23219
RE: Public Comment; opposition to adopting the Permanent Standard for Infectious
Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 / 16VAC25-220
Dear Members of the Safety and Health Codes Board:
The Virginia Association of Surveyors (VAS) is a statewide professional association with membership of hundreds of licensed surveyors based in Virginia and others who do business in Virginia.
The Safety and Health Codes Board on July 15, 2020, adopted an “Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention” related to COVID-19. Now, the Board is considering adopting a Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2.
VAS strongly opposes the Board’s adoption of a Permanent Standard.
Surveying is a professional service and was deemed “essential” in the early weeks of the pandemic, by Governor Northam’s EO 53. Hundreds of Virginia surveyors have continued working in a safe manner. Our profession’s success during the pandemic has been due to quickly adapting to the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommendations to control or prevent infectious disease spread.
VAS opposes the Board’s adoption of a Permanent Standard for these reasons:
- Conflicts with federal and state regulations; causes confusion
Virginia employers follow CDC, VDH, and OSHA guidance to help slow or prevent the spread of COVID. Certain regulations in the proposed Permanent Standard contradict other federal and state guidance – particularly the return-to-work criteria. The conflicting guidance is particularly troublesome to surveyors who work in adjoining states. Employers should follow nationwide guidance with particular attention to a state’s recommendations where known elevated risks are present.
- A permanent standard for an evolving, unprecedented event is unwise
As COVID science continues to evolve, so do CDC and VDH recommendations for best practices. Adopting permanent standards that cements in place certain workplace requirements fails to appreciate that such permanent standards may become ineffective in the future. Instead, employers should be encouraged to follow CDC and VDH guidance as circumstances warrant.
- Employers may experience increased risks due to unforeseen, uncontrollable actions
Virginia employers make best efforts to comply with CDC and VDH guidance. However, employees on their own time may not appropriately comply with federal and state guidance. The proposed permanent standards places an undue liability risk on employers for actions that may take place outside of normal business hours and off employer-controlled premises or job sites.
- Adopting a permanent standard for a specific virus is a bad precedent
It is everyone’s hope that an effective vaccine will be developed in the near future and the COVID virus will be significantly controlled or eradiated. Adopting a permanent standard for this virus suggests that certain workplace actions – such as face coverings and physical distancing, and daily health screenings, among others – will be required despite a dramatically reduced threat of spread or an eradicated virus. A permanent standard for a non-permanent infectious disease circumstance is unwise and burdensome.
The surveying profession has risen to the occasion and effectively responded to the COVID public health crisis, as has many industries and professions. No matter the merit perceived by some for adopting an “emergency temporary standard,” there is considerably less merit for adopting a Permanent Standard for an evolving and hopefully resolvable public health circumstance.
VAS strongly opposes the proposed Permanent Standard and respectfully urges the Board to not adopt it.
Kevin Wood, LS