Michigan creates new COVID rules for businesses, dictating safety and preparedness plans for all

Gretchen Whitmer creates strict rules for Michigan businesses
Photo credit Getty Images

In a notice that will affect all workers and business owners in Michigan, the state is clarifying requirements businesses must follow to protect workers and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The rules from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration say businesses that resume or have people working in the office must have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, among other thing, the proper use of personal protection equipment and ways workers can control the virus.

In addition, companies must give workers information about ways to notify the business or operation of any symptoms or positive tests of the coronavirus and how to report unsafe working conditions.

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

The guidelines are specific to industry and set standards including no shared equipment in restaurants, 'no mask, no service,' policies, and socially distanced deliveries. Patrons can only be served if they're seated and six feet apart.

In offices, the plan suggests an engineering plan including improved ventilation, sneeze guards between desks, no shared phones or computers, masks in the office, training on handwashing and other safety measures, distanced desks, restricting non-essential travel, limiting exposure to multiple job sites, and more.

It also encourages remote work and requires employers to provide hand sanitizer for employees who have to come to a workplace and sets up daily self-health screening protocol for all workers.

The rules establish workplace safety requirements for everything from gyms to schools and retail. Overall it requires face coverings in all public spaces, capacity limitations on stores, bars and other public venues and providing safer workplaces.

“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,” said COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “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.”

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 government, including local health departments, indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from infection.

"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," said Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO. "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.”

“Small businesses owners are dedicated to providing safe workplaces. Consistent, practical, and clear rules are important to achieving that goal,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “We welcome the initiation of the departmental rule-making process to establish predicable and well defined expectations.”

A set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety provides businesses with the guidelines they and their employees must follow and includes a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and a reopening checklist to help businesses put safeguards in place. Businesses can also find posters for employees and customers, factsheets and educational videos.

To enhance MIOSHA’s consultative services, the newly launched MIOSHA Ambassador Program will send safety and health experts to businesses statewide now to offer education and support, with a focus on workplaces with a higher risk of community transmission. To request consultation, education and training services, call 517-284-7720 or online at MIOSHA Request for Consultative Assistance.

For more information about MIOSHA’s safety and health guidelines to protect Michigan’s workforce during the pandemic, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety. Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health may contact MIOSHA using the new hotline at 855-SAFE-C19 (855-723-3219). 

To report health and safety concerns in the workplace, go to Michigan.gov/MIOSHAcomplaint.