MIOSHA extends emergency worker rules

    Susan J. Demas

    The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) this week extended its emergency rules, originally issued Oct. 14, 2020, aimed at protecting Michigan workers, businesses, customers and communities from the spread of COVID-19.

    The emergency rules have been extended until Oct. 14, 2021, but can be modified or withdrawn at any time in response to changes in COVID-19 spread.

    “MIOSHA’s emergency rules help keep us all safe by ensuring that employers implement common sense safety standards to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “When employers maintain a safe workplace, that gives workers and consumers the confidence to keep our economy moving.”  

    A total of 756,564 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 16,586 have died from the virus as of Tuesday. Michigan remains a national hotspot for the virus, with more than 8,000 new cases reported on Tuesday.

    According to data released Sept. 3 through April 1, workplace outbreaks include 670 in manufacturing and construction, 250 in restaurants and bars, 374 in retail, 332 in office settings and 52 in personal care services. 

    Since March 2020, employers have reported over 40 worker deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan and MIOSHA has received over 12,000 complaints from employees alleging COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. In addition, over 605 referrals were received from local governments, including local health departments, indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from infection. 

    State announces work group on reopening offices safely

    Under the emergency rules, employers must continue to implement policies that require remote work for employees where remote work is feasible, to help ensure that COVID-19 transmission is mitigated to the maximum extent possible. While in-person work is permitted when remote work is not feasible, remote work is recommended as a strategy to minimize in-person contacts and is included in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and federal OSHA to protect employees in the workplace. 

    Businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE), steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions.

    “As we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the rules reinforce the importance of keeping workplaces safe for employees from COVID-19 transmission,” said COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “We want employers to create a safe work environment for their employees, which is why we will continue to work with employees and businesses to help them understand how to safely stay open.”  

    The rules establish workplace safety requirements and employers should coordinate these requirements with the DHHS Emergency Order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities, placing capacity limitations on stores, bars and other public venues and providing safer workplaces.

    Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health may contact MIOSHA using the new hotline at 855-SAFE-C19 (855-723-3219). To learn more about the efforts to support a safe reopening in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety.

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    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.