In October of 2020, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration put into place emergency rules, implementing workplace safeguards for all businesses and specific requirements for industries, including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, sports and exercise facilities, and restaurants and bars. Notably, these rules contain a requirement that employers create a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.
The MIOSHA Emergency Rules were set to expire mid-April and through the Reopen Michigan Safely Coalition, the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and Traverse Connect advocated against the extension of these rules. Unfortunately, in early April, these rules were extended without any changes or clarifications for another six months.
These emergency rules can be pulled back as vaccination rates increase as outlined in the ‘MI Vacc to Normal Plan.’ Michigan recently met the first milestone in this plan with at least 55% of Michiganders having received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and in-person work will resume across all employment sectors on May 24. Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement that fully vaccinated individuals could resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing and the state’s update to the Gatherings and Face Mask Order, “MIOSHA is in the process of reviewing both the emergency rules and draft permanent rules.” Beyond that the permanent rules are being reviewed, we have not learned of any change in plans for pursuing permanent MIOSHA COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules.
These proposed permanent rules would extend many of MIOSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Rules on a permanent basis. The draft rules will go through the regular rulemaking process (which is expected to take six to 12 months) and there are opportunities for public input. Some of the included rules are:
- The employer shall create a policy promoting remote work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly (e.g., technical, economical, performance) be completed remotely.
- Require patrons to wear face coverings.
- The employer shall prohibit workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
On top of meeting the first ‘MI Vacc to Normal Plan’ benchmark, the CDC’s announcement on fully vaccinated individuals, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services lifting the indoor mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in adolescents 12 years of age and older.
“With four major announcements last week touting our COVID-19 recovery, it certainly appears that we are addressing an improving and fluid situation with a permanent and stagnant solution. In addition to the proposed MIOSHA rules lacking flexibility and not reflecting the current recovery landscape, they also do not have a clear sunset. This means there is no guarantee that the rules would be lifted after any epidemic order ends,” shared Kirstie Sieloff, Director of Government Relations for Traverse Connect and the Alliance, in her Record Eagle column.
Given the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months, this is not a permanent situation and job providers deserve to have a clear understanding of when the rules will be lifted.
How have the MIOSHA Emergency Rules affected your business? Tell MIOSHA why you oppose the proposed permanent MIOSHA COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules (Part 505, Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19), Rule Set 2021-27 LE) by submitting written testimony here for the MIOSHA public hearing on May 26.