On July 27th, Virginia became the first state to mandate steps that an employer must take to, “control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of [COVID-19]” (§16VAC25-220). These requirements apply to all places of employment, employers, and employees within the State of Virginia, and are expected to be in effect for six months. Fines for violations can range from $13,000 to $130,000 per occurrence, with larger fines for repeat violations.
So how does a company comply with these new rules, keep their employees safe, and avoid potentially significant fines?
We will outline the structure of the regulation below and show how Maptician can be used to help businesses meet many of these new requirements in a quick and cost-effective way. There is generally a two-step process that businesses should take to determine which requirements apply to their workplace, and who they apply to.
Employers must determine the exposure risk level of employees based on their individual job tasks, though employees performing similar tasks can be grouped for classification purposes. Exposure risk levels are categorized as “lower”, “medium”, “high”, and “very high”, and it is possible to have individuals within the same workplace with different risk levels based on their job tasks and work environment. Here are general descriptions the risk levels:
That last part of the lower risk level is important since it allows for job tasks that could otherwise be classified as medium to be reduced to lower by taking precautions to minimize the transmission risk. These precautions include physical barriers, telecommuting, staggered work shifts, physical distancing, and face masks. Physical distancing is defined as keeping at least 6 feet of distance between individuals or physical separation by “permanent, solid floor to ceiling walls”. Unfortunately, it is not clear at what point “minimal occupational contact” has been achieved in a workplace.
Based on the exposure risk levels determined in Step 1, combine the “all exposure risk levels” requirements from the list below with the requirements for your specific risk level(s). These are the requirements that your organization will need comply with for the new regulation. Companies with Very High or High exposure risks, or those with Medium risk and 11 or more employees will also need to develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan which requires a person to be designated to implement and sign-off on the plan.
Exposure Risk Specific Controls are divided into three categories 1. Engineering Controls, 2. Administrative Controls, and 3. Work Practice Controls (though Administrative and Work Practice controls are generally lumped into a single group)
Maptician is a cloud-based, space management tool built around a proprietary map engine that allows for quick creation of accurate and interactive indoor maps. Data elements, such as employee workstations, dynamic social distancing areas, reservable resource, and points of interest can all be added and synced through an easy drag-and-drop interface. Maptician was one of the first space management tools offer features specifically to help businesses operate safely in a COVID-19 environment.
Maptician uses a patent-pending technology to dynamically draw context-aware social distancing areas for each employee. This feature calculates and displays the physical distancing area around a an occupied workstation while adjusting for barriers such as walls and windows, and determining if any other employees are in violation of distancing policies (providing visual cues where violations occur).
Distances can be controlled on a workstation basis, allowing flexibility to establish more stringent distancing policies for higher risk environments. Distancing also works with scheduling (discussed below) to help organizations create safely distanced schedules even in the densest office environments.
One of the administrative controls indicated by the Emergency Temporary Standard is to stagger employee shifts in order to reduce overall workplace density, allowing more room for physical distancing. Maptician has a built-in, easy to use, scheduler that allows employees to be divided into physically distanced shifts which can be scheduled to arrive in the workplace based on a highly configurable recurring schedule. These schedules connect directly to the map engine and allow users to interact with a workplace to see who will be in the office at any given time.
To provide additional flexibility, Maptician also includes a built-in room and seat reservation system (with mobile app) that allows employees to reserve workstations with physical distancing features.
All shift and reservation-based features include social/physical distancing and can easily be configured to allow almost any office to meet physical distancing guidelines without adjusting furniture or office layouts.
Maptician includes a contact tracing tool that is very well suited to the positive case notification requirement in the Virginia regulation. Based on employee workstation assignments, schedules, and reservations, Maptician is able to automatically determine who was in a worksite at the same times as an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 during a lookback period(configurable to 14 days). This provides a list of individuals, the nature of their potential contact, their workstation distance from the target individual, the timeframe of their potential contact(s), a link to the map as it was during the potential contact (visual lookback), and contact information for the potentially exposed individuals.
All of this is calculated dynamically and without any medical information being stored in the Maptician environment. The details of this tracing process can be easily exported to excel, csv, or pdf for use in contacting potentially exposed individuals. The Virginia regulation provides only 24 hours from the time a business is notified of a positive case to provide notification to the potentially exposed individuals – Maptician can create the contact list in seconds.
Maptician allows organizations to create physically distanced layouts of common rooms and break rooms, with options for distancing markers, reservable spaces, maximum capacity measurements, and room flow markers. The resulting space layout can be printed as a high-resolution map for in-office posting, exported to pdf for email distribution to employees, or accessed directly by employees through the desktop or mobile web tools.
Maptician has an employee bulletin/notification system that is available in both desktop and mobile versions that allows managers to create location/department/time delimited notifications and messages for employees, which makes for a convenient mechanism to communicate relevant workspace-based information. It also has a rsvp feature which can be used to poll for attendance or various capacity-limited environments.
Maptician includes dozens of points of interest ranging from printers to hand sanitizer and temperature check stations. These points of interest can be easily placed on any map and are immediately searchable and configurable, with most allow for further customizations such as directions and description fields. Maps can also be marked-up with informational labels, dimensions, arrows, and other indicators that can provide visual cues to employees on how to safely occupy the space.
Points of interest markers are available for mask use requirements, closing off rooms and common areas, and indicating areas of high traffic flow, in need of cleaning, or to avoid due to biohazards. These features can help businesses meet their requirement for communication of cleaning and sanitization and help to communicate the status of post-positive case area sanitization (general requirement).
Maptician subscriptions include permission controlled access for all employees, which allows everyone to have real-time access to interactive maps displaying current and future occupancy, contextual information on safety procedures in place, and the ability to reserve rooms and workstations for work tasks or common room usage. These features can be used to satisfy various employee communication requirements of the Virginia regulation.
A further Maptician feature with an expected release in early August is an automated system for requesting employees to complete wellness self-surveys to verify that they are not experiencing any known COVID-19 symptoms. These surveys are automatically sent via email or text message to employees prior to their scheduled shifts or reservations in a workplace. Completed surveys give employees access to a large font verification screen that can be used for entry into a workplace. This feature is expected to fulfill the general self-monitoring requirement and the medium/high risk pre-screen requirements.
While most of these requirements are likely new to businesses and the additional regulations may appear daunting at first, we believe that technological solutions can help businesses of all size to meet these new obligations in an efficient and cost effective manner, while demonstrating to employees that effective plans are in place and that their health and safety has been considered thoroughly.
Maptician is available on a subscription basis, with plans starting at $109/month for businesses for up to 100 employees. This includes access to the features above (except for pre-screening) and access to the easy-to-use web-based floorplan editor. Maptician can also assist with floor plan creation and training/implementation.
Maptician is focused on providing organizations of all sizes with an affordable solution to gain visibility into and get the most out of their office space.
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