State Agency Issue New Workplace Orders, Mirroring Whitmer’s Now-Void Orders

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by Scott McClallen

 

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has issued new emergency orders for many businesses.

MIOSHA, within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, promulgates rules clarifying the safety requirements for employers.

The rules remain in effect for six months and can be extended for another six months.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2 struck down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders issued after April 30, and she’s turned to issuing similar orders through separate laws through state departments.

The state health department issued orders restricting gathering sizes, requiring masks in public, and limiting public venues’ capacities.

Although Whitmer contended her orders retained the force of law through Oct. 30, the state’s top court confirmed Monday her orders “under that act are of no continuing legal effect.”

“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 statement. “I will continue to work around the clock with my partners in labor and business to ensure protections for every Michigan worker.”

Under the rules, businesses providing in-person service must have a written COVID-19 preparedness plan, train employees in infection-control practices and use of personal protection equipment, how to notify their business of COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and know how to report unsafe working conditions.

MIOSHA’s new rules implement workplace safeguards for Michigan businesses and specific requirements for industries, including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, restaurants and bars.

Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley told The Center Square they are reviewing the order but believe “the administrative rules process, as established by statute, provides a better process than executive orders.”

He said in a Thursday Labor and Economic Opportunity and MIOSHA call, that the agency reaffirmed its emphasis on safety, education, and training.

“As we reengage our economy, the governor’s actions reiterate the importance to keep workplaces safe for employees and protect customers from COVID-19 transmission,” COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan said in a statement.

“These rules will formalize the workplace safety guidelines previously in place, and are necessary to save lives. We will continue to educate workers and employers on requirements for businesses to get open and stay open,” Egan said.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, the working folks I’ve talked to have been most concerned about avoiding catching this awful virus at work and bringing it home and spreading it to their families,” Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO said in a statement. “We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help these people protect themselves and their families, because we can’t have a strong economy when people are catching a deadly virus just by showing up to work.”

Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, welcomed the orders.

“Small businesses owners are dedicated to providing safe workplaces. Consistent, practical, and clear rules are important to achieving that goal,” Calley said in a statement. “We welcome the initiation of the departmental rule-making process to establish predictable and well defined expectations.”

Since March 2020, employers have reported 30 worker deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan and 127 in-patient hospitalizations potentially linked to workplace exposure.

MIOSHA has received over 3,800 complaints from employees alleging uncontrolled COVID-19 hazards in the workplace and 263 referrals from local governments, indicating that businesses weren’t taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from COVID-19.

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.

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