COVID-19, Regulatory Developments

Michigan’s COVID-19 ETS Extended to October

While the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to issue a federal emergency temporary standard (ETS) for workplace COVID-19 exposures, Michigan has extended its COVID-19 ETS through the fall. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) announced the extension of Michigan’s emergency COVID-19 rules through October 14.

Michigan flag and COVID-19, COVID-19 ETS

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MIOSHA originally issued an ETS October 14, 2020, to protect Michigan workers, businesses, customers, and communities from the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“MIOSHA’s emergency rules help keep us all safe by ensuring that employers implement common sense safety standards to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.

“When employers maintain a safe workplace, that gives workers and consumers the confidence to keep our economy moving.” Whitmer said.

The Michigan regulations include employer requirements for preparedness and response plans, infection prevention measures, health surveillance, workplace controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), recordkeeping, and training. In addition to requirements that apply to all Michigan employers, MIOSHA established additional requirements for several industries, including construction, health care and home health services, manufacturing, and meat and poultry processing.

The Michigan ETS also requires employers to provide non-medical-grade face coverings to employees at no cost to them and mandate face coverings under certain circumstances in the workplace.

The NSF (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation) teamed up with MIOSHA to provide free consultation and educational resources through the MIOSHA Ambassador program to help Michigan employers minimize the risks of workplace COVID-19 exposures. MIOSHA Ambassadors work with business owners and managers in complying with the ETS and state directives, ensuring a safe workplace for employees and customers.

Data on outbreaks in Michigan workplaces demonstrate a need for extending the ETS and continued employer compliance with the emergency rule, according to MIOSHA.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and local public health departments reported 670 workplace outbreaks in manufacturing and construction establishments, 250 in restaurants and bars, 374 in retail stores, 332 in office settings, and 52 in personal care services, according to data released September 3, 2020 through April 1, 2021.

Businesses resuming in-person operations must have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan under the emergency rules and provide thorough training for their employees covering infection control practices in the workplace, proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify their employer of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions.

While in-person work is permitted when remote work is not feasible, remote work is the preferred way to minimize in-person contacts, according to MIOSHA.

Where remote work is feasible, employers must continue under the emergency rules to implement policies that require remote work for employees, helping ensure that COVID-19 transmission is reduced to the greatest extent possible.

In addition to MIOSHA’s emergency workplace safety and health rules, employers in public-facing businesses must comply with an MDHHS Emergency Order restricting gathering sizes; requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities; and mandating capacity limitations for bars, stores, and other public spaces.