Case in point: In January, the board intentionally decided to enact a permanent version of the standard that made no allowances for vaccinated employees. At the time, vaccinations were just starting to become available. Since then, more than half of Virginians have been fully vaccinated, and the CDC lifted masking and social distancing requirements for them.
The VOSH standard enables workers to follow CDC guidance, but only when it provides “equal or greater protection.” And the standard still requires face coverings for employees who are not distanced from others, regardless of vaccination status. Sounds like a mask mandate to me.
VOSH tried to “fix” discrepancies between the science and the law in its online “Q&A.” But website guidance isn’t law. The standard is. And now the standard has forced employers to make the impossible choice between following the science and following the law.
Northam also tried to undo the damage by declaring in an executive order that face coverings between vaccinated persons no longer are required. But a federal court ruled this past year that OSHA has primary jurisdiction over workplace safety.
The wishes of governors are pre-empted by federal laws like the Occupational Safety and Health Act, no matter how many orders governors declare.
Thankfully, all is not lost. Virginia has an opportunity to get state and federal agencies and employers all on the same page. Northam asked the board to meet, and a tentative meeting has been set for June 29 to consider options, which will be followed by a public comment period and another meeting later to take action.