More emergency rules for Michigan workplaces replace defunct Whitmer executive orders

The state of Michigan is using a new way to put COVID-19 precautions in place in absence of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recently invalidated executive orders.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a list of emergency rules on Wednesday, Oct. 14, including requirements like having a COVID-19 preparedness plan and doing daily screenings of employees.

Many of the rules were part of Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-184, which put various workplace safeguards in place.

The executive orders were thrown out earlier this month as a result of a Michigan Supreme Court ruling.

“While most Michigan job providers are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, these rules provide them with clarity regarding the necessary requirements to keep their workplaces safe and their employees healthy,” Whitmer said in a news release.

Whitmer had to sign off on the MIOSHA rules to put them into effect. They are valid for six months and state law allows them to be extended once more for another six months.

Some rules from the executive orders have already been reinstated – through orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Such rules include limiting restaurants to 50% capacity and requiring people to wear masks in public.

The MDHHS rules are in effect until Oct. 30, but can be extended.

The new MIOSHA rules also have specific requirements by industry – including manufacturing, retailers, restaurants and others.

These new rules are helpful for businesses, said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

“We welcome the initiation of the departmental rule-making process to establish predicable and well-defined expectations,” Calley said in the news release.

People are concerned about catching COVID-19 at work and bringing it home to their families, and this helps address that, said Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO union organization.

“We can’t have a strong economy when people are catching a deadly virus just by showing up to work,” Bieber said in the news release.

Since March 2020, employers have reported 30 worker deaths and 127 hospitalizations from possible COVID-19 exposures at work. MIOSHA has received more than 3,800 complaints from employees about potential violations and has 263 referrals from local governments and health departments.

Businesses with MIOSHA violations can be fined up to $7,000. So far in 2020, 35 businesses have been cited and fined for not following COVID-19 workplace precautions.

Those citations were under the authority of the now-defunct executive orders. The state maintains those fines are still valid, but some businesses and legal experts disagree.

To report a complaint to MIOSHA, go to Michigan.gov/MIOSHAcomplaint.

Safety and health experts from MIOSHA are being sent across the state to offer education and support about pandemic precautions businesses can put in place. Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health can call MIOSHA’s new hotline at 855-SAFE-C19 (855-723-3219).

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