Vote no to the proposed permanent standard
Prior to attempting to adopt any permanent standard, members of the Safety and Health Codes Board need to ask themselves, where is the data? Where is the data that supports the need for a permanent standard for COVID-19? Has the ETS truly prevented additional spread of the virus? What about VOSH compliance inspections and citations surrounding non-compliance of the ETS? Have any occurred? Have they made a difference? What is the state of small business in Virginia? Are businesses struggling because of the mandates in place?
By announcing the intent to make the ETS permanent at the same time that it was enacted, VOSH made it clear that they were not interested in data. At face value this seems to be an entirely political move. Let's make the governor look great for enacting the first permanent COVID standard.
Many of the requirements in this standard are vague and overly burdensome for small employers. Employers can do their best to implement what is required but at anytime, a client or customer that refuses to abide by policies can ruin every protection that was in place. Trying to enforce protections with the general public can lead to employees being put in a harmful situation. Is this what we want?
This standard is not consistent with CDC and even VDH guidelines. Why are two Virginia agencies putting out conflicting information? This standard locks employers into obsolete data. Information around COVID changes daily but somehow this standard that was created months ago will protect everyone even though everything has now changed.
Most employers have gone above and beyond to protect their employees during this pandemic. The ETS was not even warranted and now we want to ensure that we lock employers into following these requirements indefinitely. What happens once the pandemic is under control and is no longer considered a pandemic? Employers will be forced to continue wasting money that they don't have on protections that aren't needed.
Has anyone really considered the stress that this puts on the employees? You know, the ones that this standard is supposed to protect. Mask wearing makes communication with others very difficult. It also affects the mood and mental state of employees. Masks make other tasks unsafe due to fogging of glasses, limitations on vision and other factors.
Several parts of this standard rely on employees doing the right thing. Employees that can't afford to be off are not going to answer their screening questions honestly. Many employees will not wash their face coverings as prescribed. Are we to believe that everyone is sanitizing and washing appropriately? So no one will ever be in a hurry and forget?
The standard implies that the employer is responsible for any exposure that an employee receives to include exposures during their personal time. Most of those exposures do occur when an employee is not at work. It is ridiculous for an employer to have to bend over backwards to prevent virus exposures when an employee can leave work and go to a restaurant, a rally, a sporting event, a party, etc. and all the protecting that employer did has just been wiped away.
This standard gives the exemption for education institutions yet they are some of the biggest offenders for enforcing the protections. This was where the board caved to the governor's desires.
The ETS was not well thought out. There was no opportunity for stakeholders to give proper feedback. There is no data to support the need for this to be permanent. The ETS needs to be allowed to expire giving employers the ability to adapt to current guidelines for employee protections.
Vote no to making the ETS permanent.