When the MI Supreme Court struck down Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 Executive Orders, MI OSHA responded quickly to fill the void, and last week issued a series of COVID-19 Emergency Regulations. When Gov. Whitmer signed the “Emergency Rules Order,” Michigan became only the second state in the country with a set of enforceable, COVID-19 specific regulations. While many of the requirements set forth in the new rules mirror the Governor’s prior EOs, having a prescriptive rule in place makes it that much easier for MI OSHA to issue citations to employers.
Given MI OSHA’s aggressive use of the General Duty Clause to support a series of citations after an inspection blitz over the summer, Michigan employers should expect enforcement to continue in a similar manner, making compliance with these rules all the more important. Participants in this webinar learned about the requirements of MIOSHA’s COVID-19 emergency rules and steps to take to avoid citations, including:
MIOSHA’s new COVID-19 emergency rules, which became effective immediately and which will remain in effect for 6 months, require employers to:
conduct workplace risk assessments for COVID-19 exposures;
develop a written exposure control plan; and
adopt a series of workplace protections.
“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,” said Gov. Whitmer. “I will continue to work around the clock with my partners in labor and business to ensure protections for every Michigan worker.”
Because MIOSHA’s rule uses pretty vague language and is lean on detail, the agency has already begun to issue FAQs explaining what some of the provisions of the rule mean. Here is the first batch of FAQs:
While MIOSHA had already been aggressively citing employers under the General Duty Clause over the past few months, most of those citation directly referenced Gov. Whitmer’s now-invalidated COVID-19 Executive Orders. Michigan employers can now be cited for violating these specific regulations. At the same time, however, Republican legislators have sent a series of bills to Governor Whitmer that include liability protections for employers that comply with MI OSHA guidelines, making compliance with these rules all the more important.
Employers with operations in Michigan wishing to avoid citations should take the following 5 steps as soon as practically possible: (1) Assess; (2) Plan; (3) Protect; (4) train; and (5) document.
STEP 1: Conduct Workplace Assessment & Make Exposure Determinations (ASSESS)
Responding to the surge in workplace violence faced by retailers and others in the service industries, on September 1, 2020, the CDC issued guidance on Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses. The new guidance covers how to manage the threat of violence from customers or others who are asked to comply with Governors’ or Health Department mandates or the businesses’ own infection control policies, such as requiring masks to be worn by customers, asking customers to follow social distancing rules, and setting limits on the number of customers allowed inside at one time. Specifically, the guidance discourages retailers from becoming the enforcer in these situations, and includes recommendations like calling 911 and not arguing with a customer who refuses to comply with the rules.
This guidance is vital as we have seen the opposite instruction from such governmental agencies as Michigan OSHA (“MIOSHA”), Oregon OSHA (“OR OSHA”), and the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (“NMOHSB”). Indeed, those state OSH Programs have been issuing citations and shutdown orders for retailers and restaurants who do not refuse service to customers unwilling to wear a face covering onsite. CDC’s guidance will hopefully force these agencies to be sensible about the terrible dilemma they are forcing on businesses and their front line employees who feel the brunt of these enforcement policies that would turn them into law enforcement. Continue reading →
The Directive lays out MIOSHA’s approach for selecting various retail and hospitality workplaces for programmed inspections about COVID-19 infection control.
The stated purposes of the Emphasis Program is to “increase MIOSHA’s presence in retail establishments to ensure workers are protected from SARS-CoV-2,” because “employees who come in contact with large numbers of people as a result of their employment [like in retail] are at elevated risk of infection.”