DuPont - Opposition to Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention re SARS-CoV-2
TO: Safety and Health Codes Board / c/o Jay Winthrow
FR: DuPont / Spruance / Richmond, Virginia / David Johnson, Plant Manager
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19, 16 VAC24-220 (collectively, the “Regulations”). These comments are provided on behalf of DuPont.
DuPont has maintained a manufacturing presence in Virginia for over 90 years. Our three manufacturing locations in Virginia employ over 2000 employees and contractors. In addition, our Tyvek® protective apparel and our Dupont Teijin Films Melinex® film have played a critical role in protecting the front line essential workers in battling this pandemic.
Safety and Health is a core value at DuPont. Keeping the workplace safe, which has always been a cornerstone of our operation, has taken on new meaning during the past six months. The need to take extra precautions to protect the safety and health of our employees in the workplace as we continue to operate essential businesses is a value we share. While we appreciate and support critical measures which must be enacted to guard the health and safety of our employees, their families, co-workers and the communities in which they live, we believe the Regulations as drafted create concerns for many employers.
We respectfully submit the comments below addressing our specific concerns of the proposed Regulations:
- Section 60.B.1.b Requiring “Low” and “Medium” risk facilities to maintain HVAC systems in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions does not address the potential hazard (if any) as it relates to ventilation.
- The language does not account for older facilities, as upgrading the ventilation in those facilities may be infeasible.
Recommended changes: ASHRAE standards 62.1, 62.2 and 170 should be struck entirely and the Board adopt the CDC guidelines to adequately address the issue.
- Increase ventilation rates.
- Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and provide acceptable indoor air quality for the current occupancy level for each space.
- Increase outdoor air ventilation, using caution in highly polluted areas.
- Disable demand controlled ventilation (DCV).
- Further open minimum outdoor air dampers (as high as 100%) to reduce or elimination recirculation. Provide for flexibility to accommodate thermal comfort or humidity needs in cold or hot weather.
- Improve central air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass.
- Check filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed.
Keep systems funning longer hours, 24/7 if possible, to enhance air exchanges in the building space.
Suspected cases of COVID-19 – Symptoms
Section 30, “Symptomatic” definition – This definition includes a broad array of symptoms – “fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.”
- This includes just about every illness. It’s overly broad given that the employer must act if a worker is exhibiting these symptoms.
- Data regarding the incubation period is still uncertain.
- The symptoms listed are not uniformly listed in all CDC, OSHA and VDH guidance documents.
- Section 40.A.4 – The employer must treat any such person exhibiting these symptoms as being “suspected COVID-19” case.
- Section 40.5 – The employer shall not allow any suspected case to report to work or be allowed to remain at work.
- Section 40.C –A suspected case cannot return until 3 days since last symptom and 10 days since first symptom. So, someone that exhibits muscle aches after a long day must “sit” for almost 14 days? Or someone with a running nose? This is overly broad.
Recommended change: Narrow the symptoms that trigger a “Suspected case” to the CDC list to avoid abuse. Include a provision that would allow the employee to return to work upon if an initial COVID-19 test is negative.
PPE and no credit for the use of face coverings
- Section 30, “PPE” definition includes surgical masks but not face coverings.
Section 40.H – The draft states “. . . employers shall ensure compliance with respiratory protection and personal protective equipment standards applicable to its industry. “
- First, there are no industry standards on this. So essentially, it will be up to OSHA’s discretion whether someone should have worn a surgical mask or respirator instead of allowing the person to wear a face covering.
- Second, the supply of PPE continues to ebb and flow, and this regulation will be in place for an undetermined period of time but at a minimum for the duration of the pandemic. That could be a problem if the supply of surgical masks contracts again.
- Finally, if employers are required to outfit workers in PPE instead of requiring face coverings simply because they are in 6 feet of another person, and the supply of surgical masks continues to be strained, employers will have to issue respirators to employers and fit test those employees. The availability of fit testing is currently strained as well, so much so that many providers discontinued this vital service during the pandemic. The agency is surely not suggesting that workers be provided and instructed to wear respirators without being properly fit tested.
Recommended Change: Allow the use of face coverings and surgical masks for work within six feet of others.
- Section 40.F – Again, the draft requires an “. . . employer shall ensure compliance with respiratory protection and person protective equipment standards applicable to its industry” when multiple people occupy a vehicle is both impractical and vague and inconsistent with the CDC guidance for rideshares and other public vehicles. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/using-transportation.html.)
Recommended change: When multiple employees are occupying a vehicle for work purposes, the employer shall ensure all occupants wear a face covering, allow fresh air ventilation (i.e., open window) and limit occupancy to improve social distancing. If the employer cannot perform these tasks, the employer shall ensure compliance with respiratory protection and personal protective equipment standards applicable to the employer's industry.
Cleaning common spaces
- The requirement that “. . . common spaces . . . [be] cleaned and disinfected at the end of each shift” is impractical for 24/7 operations with multiple and overlapping shifts as mandated Section 60.C.1.d. (staggered shifts). To enact this provision as written would require constant cleaning and disinfecting around the clock.
- Recommended change: Allow employers to clean periodically based upon usage of the common area, not to be less than once every 12 hours.
Your time and consideration of the above stated proposals are appreciated.
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