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Virginia becomes first state to enact workplace coronavirus safety rules

Virginia becomes first state to enact workplace coronavirus safety rules
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Virginia’s health and safety board voted Wednesday to create workplace coronavirus safety rules, becoming the first state in the country to take steps toward creating such rules amid the pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people in the U.S. 

The state’s 14-member board voted 9-3 to create the safety rules that the board will continue to work on and finalize in coming days, The Washington Post reported. Two members of the board reportedly abstained. 

The draft of the standard reportedly requires employers to develop policies for workers dealing with coronavirus-like symptoms, and prohibits workers suspected of having symptoms of the highly contagious virus from showing up to work. The rules also require companies to notify workers of possible exposure to infected co-workers within 24 hours and mandates physical distancing as well as hygienic standards, according to the Post. 

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Many businesses spoke out in opposition of the new rules, arguing it would add a greater burden to their budgets during an already challenging time, the Post reported. 

Unions, labor advocates and workers, however, have praised the regulations, the Post notes. 

The governor’s office said the rules were prompted by a lack of enforcement from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency in charge of upholding workplace safety, the Post reported. OSHA has issued only one citation in response to more than 4,000 coronavirus related complaints, according to the Post. 

OSHA, however, has defended itself amid criticism. 

“The claim that OSHA is neglecting its duty of keeping workers safe is inaccurate,” OSHA spokeswoman Denisha L. Braxton said in a statement to the Post. “OSHA is committed to protecting American workers during the pandemic, and has been working around the clock to that end.”