AFSCME Virginia members Hold VOSH Training around Pandemic Standards

AFSCME Virginia recently hosted a comprehensive health and safety training around new state rules protecting Virginia’s workers from COVID-19 exposure. AFSCME Virginia members from different regions of the state participated in the November 14th training. They came together to learn about their health and safety workplace rights, as well as safeguards they should expect from their employer. More importantly, the training empowered Virginia Public Employees with clear action steps if their workplace did not meet requirements set by Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSH).  

Virginia became the first state to implement mandatory COVID-19 workplace safety rules in July 2020, after approval from the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (“VSHCB”).[1] Early September 2020, AFSCME Virginia members, supported by AFSCME Council 20’s Health and Safety Committee, submitted public letters endorsing these VOSH safety initiatives. Erika Yalowitz, an intake officer for Arlington’s County Court and an AFSCME Virginia member, celebrated the news: “As an essential worker, I meet with domestic violence survivors face to face. I know my job is important, but I want to make sure that when I go home to my family, they are safe as well. These regulations will make sure that I am.” 

AFSCME health and safety specialists developed and presented the training, which also featured existing, non-COVID 19 workplace criteria established by the VSHCB. However, the presenters primarily emphasized protocols to curb the spread of infectious disease, employees' health and safety workplace rights, management's responsibilities in promoting and maintaining safe workplaces, and how workers should address workplace COVID-19 concerns.  

Participants learned how to complete a VOSH complaint form if, after bringing a health and safety concern to management, the issue remained unresolved. Trainers also equipped workers with a detailed workplace health and safety checklist to help employees identify potential violations of the VOSH rules. 

“The VOSH training provided by our union is an excellent tool for educating ourselves about the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and how to maintain safe and healthy work environments. Armed with this information, I feel better equipped to take an active role in promoting workplace safety and ensuring that our management remains accountable. "Luis Valez, Construction Management Specialist, Arlington County.  

AFSCME Virginia continues its work ensuring worker health and safety concerns are promptly addressed, that work schedules are safe and fair for all public employees, and that any hazard pay determination process includes all essential workers. These provisions though first in the country Click here to learn more about AFSCME Virginia.