Valley businesses are working to meet Sept. 25 deadline for Emergency Temporary Standard

Effectiveness of mask mandate still being determined by state officials
Effectiveness of mask mandate still being determined by state officials
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board adopted an Emergency Temporary Standard on July 15, making it the first state in the U.S. to do so.

The Emergency Temporary Standard, or ETS, is a set of rules intended to protect workplaces and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This was adopted in absence of federal guidelines.

Judy Williams owns the JE Williams Group, and she said she has been following state and CDC guidelines and implemented many safety measures for her companies back in March when the pandemic began.

“These have been the procedures... Limiting the people on our property, maintaining the social distance and certainly employing the personal protective measures,” Williams said, just to name a few of a long list of safety measures that are currently in place.

Williams said the ETS takes things a bit further, first by dividing companies by risk level, ranging from low to very high.

“Most of us in the state are medium risk and that is people with companies that are 11+ employees with access to the public on various levels,” Williams said.

One of the requirements includes increased sanitation. For example, Williams said her companies are required to clean restrooms every two hours.

Businesses will also have to develop an infectious disease policy, which Williams described as a “very time-consuming process.”

Employers must also notify all employees within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive.

All employees must be trained on the new standard by Sept. 25.

While Williams realizes that these new regulations will help keep her companies prepared in the event of another outbreak in the future, she said she is frustrated that she was informed of the ETS just last week.

“Why did they not just send us an email to let us know you need to pay very close attention to this? Open this link for some very urgent information. That never happened.” Williams said she found out about the requirements from her insurance company. rather than the state.

She said she has had some concerns while working to meet the deadline.

“All of the sanitation materials available that we are required to have available throughout our properties... The difficulty comes when there’s such a high demand for those products that you can’t get them,” Williams said.

She said it’s also been a struggle to find ways to accommodate the mask mandate for customers and employees.

“We cannot just tell them, you wear a mask or you don’t come to work. What we have to do now is make other arrangements for them according to this regulation,” Williams said.

Some of those arrangements may include staggered work hours, but Williams noted she can’t be at work around the clock.

Failure to comply with the ETS by Sept. 25 could result in a fine that ranges from a small infraction of up to $13,000 to $135,000 for refusal to comply on a regular basis.

The ETS will remain in effect for at least six months, but it could be made permanent.

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