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Michigan OSHA Issues Emergency Covid-19 Worker Safety Rules

Oct. 15, 2020, 5:35 PM

Michigan businesses must assess Covid-19 exposure risks for employees, create a virus response plan, and establish workplace cleaning and training procedures under state emergency safety rules that took effect Wednesday.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules—some of which mirror provisions in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) pandemic executive orders that the Michigan Supreme Court struck down earlier this month—will remain in effect for six months.

“Because of the Michigan Supreme Court decision, we were asked by business associations and unions to create a more formal and understandable framework,” Sean Egan, MIOSHA’s director of Covid-19 workplace safety and deputy director for labor, told Bloomberg Law. He said the agency has been using the general duty clause to cite employers since the beginning of the crisis.

The state’s emergency rules also include coronavirus safety requirements specific to certain industries, including food processing, manufacturing, construction, retail, and restaurants and bars. For example, the rules advise meat processing companies to stagger worker shifts to minimize the number of employees in a facility at any one time, and assign the same group of employees to the same shifts to minimize worker contact.

Enactment of those emergency provisions came on the same day that Michigan’s Republican-majority legislature sent a packet of bills to the governor offering Covid-19 liability protections to business owners that abide government safety guidelines and to workers who contracted the coronavirus-borne illness. Whitmer will likely sign them, spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said on Wednesday.

More than 154,450 confirmed cases have been reported in the state, along with 7,268 deaths, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Michigan joins a handful of states that are enacting their own Covid-19 safety rules as leaders of the U.S. Labor Department and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration have repeatedly said they have no intention of proposing a nationwide emergency rule to protect workers against the coronavirus. Legal actions seeking to force the federal OSHA to issue such a standard have failed, so far.

In July, a Virginia regulatory panel approved an emergency temporary standard requiring employers to establish coronavirus protections plans, making the state the first in the U.S. to enact such a rule during the pandemic. That temporary rule will remain in effect for six months unless it’s replaced by a permanent regulation.

And in September, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board unanimously decided to instruct its staff to write an emergency temporary rule and have the regulation back to the board by Nov. 19 for approval.

Meanwhile, Oregon continues to move forward in its rule-making attempt to create an emergency temporary standard for workers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fatima Hussein in Washington at fhussein@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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