Inside208

Proposed Permanent MIOSHA COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules Raise Concerns for Local Governments

Posted on May 14, 2021 by Dene Westbrook

UPDATE as of 5/18/2021: MIOSHA is in the process of reviewing both the emergency rules and draft permanent rules. The agency has the flexibility it needs to ensure consistency with public health guidelines and will continue to protect Michigan workers as we work toward ending this pandemic.

*Please be advised that the draft permanent rules have not been rescinded. 

The League is currently working with the Whitmer Administration to address the conflicting messaging that is occurring between the most recent MDHHS order on mask wearing, Michigan’s “Vacc to Normal” campaign, and the recently scheduled MiOSHA public hearing to consider making the COVID-19 emergency workplace rules permanent.  The League has reached out to multiple contacts in the administration and department on the proposed rules and wanted to share the following highlights from the proposed rules.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) is looking to move forward with permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety rules on employers of all sizes and types and across all industries, including local units of government.

The Michigan Municipal League has concerns about the proposed permanent rules which fail to address commonsense concerns, impose unfunded mandates on local units, and do not reflect the rapidly changing environment related to the pandemic, and directly contradict the Governor’s “Vacc to Normal” plan announced on April 29.

The League anticipates submitting written public comment based on the points below for the May 26th hearing, and we encourage our members to also engage.

The League’s outstanding concerns with the proposed rule-set include:

The rules contradict and conflict with Governor Whitmer’s “Vacc to Normal” plan, released on April 29, and existing state and federal health guidance. The “Vacc to Normal” outlines a plan for rewarding workers and businesses for their efforts to vaccinate and stay safe. However, MIOSHA’s indefinite and permanent rules don’t mention the word “vaccine” even once. This sends a disingenuous and contradicting message to employers and employees alike. If the MIOSHA rules go into effect as written, employers would still have to require their employees to wear masks, “promote” remote work and socially distance indefinitely—and even if the entire workplace is fully vaccinated.

The rules provide a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach. Local communities vary significantly in capacity and resources. We need the flexibility to adapt and implement safety measures that match our operations and specific situations.

The rules needs to provide greater flexibility for Michigan to adapt as updated guidance as released from the CDC. This should be recognized as it relates to proper PPE standards, workplace protections, quarantine guidance, physical distancing, how to handle vaccinated versus non-vaccinated employees and other, current information to combat COVID-19. For example, updated CDC guidance now recommends that individuals who are fully vaccinated can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing. However, the proposed permanent MIOSHA rules (Rule 7) do not address this issue and, instead, require everyone on the worksite to social distance and to wear face coverings.

The rules prioritize remote work, which has already caused a detrimental impact on downtown and local income tax revenues. Additionally, the requirements are unnecessary and overreaching. The proposed rules micromanage employers by requiring them to “create a policy promoting remote work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.” These decisions are best made in the workplace between employers and employees.

The rules lack a clear sunset date for when the rules would end. Given the widespread availability of vaccines, job providers deserve to understand when these regulations will come to an end. As written, the proposed rules wouldn’t even be guaranteed to expire after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services declaration has ended!

Full text of the draft rules may be found here.

The MML recommends and encourages our members to attend the public comment hearing on May 26th at 9 a.m. to voice their opposition to the proposed rules and urge MIOSHA to reconsider its proposed permanent COVID-19 workplace safety rules in either written or verbal testimony. We also encourage you to contact your respective State Representative and State Senator to amplify your opposition to this rule-set. Information to participate is below.

Participate in MIOSHA’s virtual public hearing on May 26 at 9 a.m. via phone, web or Microsoft Teams and speak out in opposition to these rules.

If you plan to speak at the virtual hearing, please contact Toscha Klopp (email: kloppt@michigan.gov) by 5 p.m. on May 19 with your name and who you are representing.

To join the meeting via Microsoft Teams: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup- join/19%3ameeting_MTZiN2ZjZmYtMzllYi00ZTZkLTgyMmYtMmFlYzcyM2Q5OGVk%40thread.v2/ 0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22d5fb7087-3777-42ad-966a- 892ef47225d1%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22ca6dec2f-ba39-4bfb-928b-d289fb945b11%22%7d

To join the meeting via the web: Visit http://www.michigan.gov/mioshastandards and scroll down to “Committees and Public Hearings” and click on “Advisory Committees and Public Hearings” link. A new page will open, and you will scroll down to the box titled “Public Hearings” and click on the “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting” link there.

To join the meeting via phone: Call (248) 509-0316 and enter Password/Conference Code: 107 137 372#

Herasanna Richards is a legislative associate handling energy, environmental, elections, and external municipal services for the League. She can be reached at hrichards@mml.org or 517-908-0309.

 

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