On November 10, 2020, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) issued an Agency Instruction creating a state emphasis program (SEP) to help ensure office workers are protected from COVID-19. The stated intent of the SEP is to increase MIOSHA's presence in office work environments to evaluate whether employers are taking necessary steps to minimize workers' exposure to COVID-19. The SEP specifically targets industries that primarily employ office workers, such as insurance, finance, real estate, and IT.
A MIOSHA industrial hygienist or safety officer will conduct unannounced inspections at office environments to enforce the MIOSHA Emergency Rules for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules). Per the SEP, the hygienist or safety officer will:
- Evaluate the employer's compliance with the MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules adopted in the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court's decision invalidating any COVID-19 emergency orders issued by the governor since April 30, 2020.
- Assess the employer's remote work policy for compliance with the MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules. MIOSHA's Emergency Rules 4(1) and 5(8) require employers to create and implement "a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely."
- Interview employees and management from all shifts to determine if any employee illnesses have occurred due to occupational exposure to COVID-19.
- Evaluate the employer's compliance with ADM Part 11, Recording and Reporting of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. The MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules continue to require employers to maintain records of COVID-19 training, screening, and required notifications for one year from the date of generation, including a record of screening for each employee or visitor who enters the workplace.
As with standard MIOSHA safety inspections, safety officers will issue citations to employers that are not in compliance with the MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules.
What this means for employers
Michigan employers of office workers are on notice that MIOSHA intends to make office environment safety a top priority, and need to be prepared for unannounced inspections to assess their compliance with the MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules. The good news is that the Rules largely incorporate the COVID-19 workplace safety requirements contained in Governor Whitmer's prior executive orders, so employers should be familiar with and have already taken steps to comply with the Rules. Still, employers should confirm they have conducted appropriate job hazard assessments and developed a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan that complies with the MIOSHA COVID-19 Rules. Employers should also be prepared to produce a written justification for why they believe any job cannot be performed remotely, and expect that MIOSHA's position will be that remote work is mandatory, not optional, except in limited circumstances.
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