MIOSHA Extends Emergency Rules on COVID-19 & Releases Proposed Permanent COVID-19 Rules in the Workplace
The original MIOSHA Emergency Rule on COVID-19 was extended for another 6-months and will now remain in effect until October 14, 2021. This extension did not include any modifications so for now, employers are required to continue the following:
- Conducting daily entry self-screening COVID-19 protocols for all employees or contractors entering the workplace.
- Prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.
- Enforcing the other infection control measures included in the Emergency Rule that Governor Whitmer announced back in October 2020. As a reminder, these Rules required all employers to:
- Develop and implement a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan that includes guidance from CDC and recommendations by OSHA.
- Promote frequent hand washing and provide hand sanitizer.
- Conduct daily “self-screening” for all employees and it must include, at a minimum, a questionnaire covering symptoms and suspected or confirmed exposure to people with possible COVID-19.
- Don’t allow employees with known or suspected cases of COVID-19 to report to work or send employees home with known or suspected cases; or, allow them to work remotely.
- Only allow employees with known or suspected COVID-19 to return to work only after they are no longer infectious, per current CDC guidelines.
- Immediately notify the local health department of known cases of COVID-19 and notify co-workers, within 24-hours, who may have come into contact with a known or suspected COVID-19 case.
- Provide non-medical grade face coverings to all employees and require their use when social distancing cannot be maintained or in shared spaces.
- Provide training for all employees on workplace infection control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps to notify the employer of any symptoms or suspected or confirmed cases, and how to report unsafe working conditions.
- Keep records of training, screening and required notifications for a minimum of 1-year from the date the record is generated.
Although these Rules remain unchanged for now, MIOSHA released a draft proposal on 4/15/21 that will establish requirements to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 in our workplaces.
Many of the proposed rules look a lot like the current Emergency Rule but in several areas they are less restrictive:
- Remote Work: The Proposed Rule would provide employers with more flexibility in determining whether employees can work remotely.
- Streamline Definitions of Commonly Used Terms: The Proposed Rule would revise the definitions of “close contact” and “COVID-19” to mirror current definitions and symptoms as defined by the CDC.
- Revised Notification Requirements: Under the Proposed Rule, employers would no longer be required to provide notice of a known COVID-19 case to individuals who were merely in the general vicinity of the case; instead, employers would only be required to notify close contacts of the confirmed case. In addition, employers would no longer be required to immediately notify the public health department in the event of a confirmed case.
- Potential More Stringent Return-to-Work Criteria: The Proposed Rule would authorize state and local public health authorities to require employees with COVID-19 to remain away from work longer than any isolation period recommended by the CDC, if necessary.
- Face Coverings: Although employers would be required to mandate that employees wear face coverings under the circumstances identified in the Emergency Rules, the Proposed Rules expressly state that such coverings are not considered Personal Protective Equipment. In addition, training employees on the proper way to wear and dispose of face coverings would also not likely be required.
- Industry-specific Changes: Manufacturing facilities would no longer be required to create dedicated entry points for daily health screening.
- Shortened Recordkeeping Requirements: Employers’ recordkeeping requirements under the Proposed Rules would be shortened to 6-months as opposed to the 1-year requirement in effect currently.
Last Thursday, Governor Whitmer announced “Michigan’s Vacc to Normal Plan”. Under this Plan, the State of Michigan will allow in-person work for all sectors of business beginning two weeks after 55% of Michganders who are at least 16 years of age have received their first dose of a COVID vaccination. If new COVID cases remain greater than 250 daily per million as a sever-day average at the time of the Plan’s implementation, MIOSHA may delay lifting its remote work requirement.
Stay tuned, as I am sure we will be hearing more about the status of these Proposed Rules in the upcoming days. 😊
Workplace Flexibility is a Priority
Having worked remotely for more than a year now, many professional workers aren’t eager to return to the office full-time. Lately, our nation’s biggest companies are making announcements that will combine workdays at the office and at home.
Just this week, General Motors announced their “Work Appropriately” policy whereby employees have the option of working in whichever location they feel will have the greatest impact on achieving GM’s goals.
I think the culture shift in business and work was underway prior to the pandemic but COVID-19 is certainly rewriting the script of our work life.