LANSING — The state’s occupational health and safety administration has promised to address the spread of the COVID-19 virus in workplaces. The effort is part of the state’s attempt to clamp down on community spread, given that Michigan’s latest surge is the worst in the country.
The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), through its Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) arm, is now extending its emergency rules, originally issued Oct. 14, 2020, to protect workers, businesses, customers and the general community.
The state says that since March of last year, employers have reported more than 40 worker deaths from COVID-19 and the MIOSHA has received more than 12,000 complaints from employees alleging COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. In addition, more than 605 referrals were received from local governments, including local health departments, indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from infection.
According to figures released Sept. 3, 2020 through April 1, 2021 by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), local public health departments reported workplace outbreaks that included 670 in manufacturing and construction, 250 in restaurants and bars, 374 in retail, 332 in office settings and 52 in personal care services.
Under MIOSHA’s emergency rules, extended until October 14, employers must continue to implement policies that require remote work for employees where remote work is feasible, to help ensure that COVID-19 transmission is mitigated to the maximum extent possible.
While in-person work is permitted when remote work is not feasible, remote work is recommended as a strategy to minimize in-person contacts and is included in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the federal OSHA to protect employees in the workplace.
“It’s important to note that the emergency rules implement workplace safeguards for all Michigan businesses,” said MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman. “The rules also include requirements for specific industries, including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, restaurants and bars.”
The order says that businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE), steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and how to report unsafe working conditions.
Employers are asked to coordinate these requirements with the MDHHS Emergency Order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities, placing capacity limitations on stores, bars and other public venues and providing safer workplaces.
The state reported 8,867 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases as its surge continues, and also recorded 74 more deaths related to the virus. Wayne County, Michigan’s most populous and the hardest hit by the virus, saw 2,044 new cases, for a total of 126,931 since the start of the pandemic and recorded 19 more deaths, for a total of 4,125.