On Monday, May 24, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has relaxed its COVID-19 regulations. Effective May 24, 2021, all employees can return to the workplace, and fully vaccinated employees may do so without the need for masks or social distancing limitations.
In October 2020, MIOSHA outlined emergency rules for handling COVID-19 in the workplace. These rules were set to expire on October 14, 2021, pending a decision to permanently implement any such rules. Last week, Gov. Whitmer announced that her administration and Republican legislative leaders agreed to rescind any permanent COVID-19 workplace proposals. On May 24, 2021, Gov. Whitmer announced that the MIOSHA rules have been updated to integrate the latest Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
The following changes have been made to MIOSHA’s emergency rules to reflect the latest orders from the CDC and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). These updates became effective on May 24, 2021 and will expire on October 14, 2021.
Employers can allow fully vaccinated employees to return to work without masks or social distancing limitations
Fully vaccinated employees can now return to work without mask or distancing requirements. However, this update only serves as a minimum standard and employers may continue to implement phased re-opening plans, mask mandates, and distancing requirements. Businesses should continue to be aware of workplace conditions and may choose to continue offering remote work if appropriate.
Employers should be advised that they are still required to conduct a daily entry self-screening for all employees or contractors entering the workplace. This mandated screening also applies to fully vaccinated employees.
Cleaning requirements have been updated to reflect CDC guidelines
CDC guidance requires that when no people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases are known to have been in a space, cleaning once a day is enough to sufficiently remove the virus that may be on any surfaces. However, the CDC recommends that employers develop and implement routine cleaning plans for more frequent cleaning or disinfecting where there is a high transmission of COVID-19 in the community, a low number of people wearing masks, or infrequent hand washing. High-touch surfaces should be cleaned at least once a day.
Employers are still required to have a written preparedness and response plan to address COVID-19 in the workplace
MIOSHA still requires that employers implement a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan. This plan must remain consistent with all guidance from both the CDC and the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and must include the measures that the employer will implement to prevent employee exposure. Employers must also continue to make the plan readily available to employees and their representatives.
Definitions have been updated to reflect changes to what constitutes “close contact” and “fully vaccinated persons”
MIOSHA has adopted the CDC’s definition of “close contact” as someone who was within six feet for a total of 15 minutes or more within two days prior to illness onset, regardless of whether the contact was wearing a mask. Additionally, MIOSHA has defined “fully vaccinated persons” to include persons for whom at least two weeks have passed after receiving the final dose of an FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
Industry specific language has been removed from the rules
The updated MIOSHA rules no longer outline industry-specific requirements for employers. Instead, the updated rules focus on performance and workplace controls for vaccinated employees and unvaccinated employees alike.
The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity expects the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to offer its own guidelines for COVID-19 restrictions in the workplace. When released, MIOSHA will integrate these guidelines into the updated rules.
In addition to these updates in the workplace, MDHHS recently released new deadlines for easing COVID-19 restrictions throughout Michigan. Employers should be advised that they must comply with both the MDHHS order and the MIOSHA order. A summary of the MDHHS order can be found here.
Varnum will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates. Please contact your Varnum attorney to learn more about how the planned re-opening may affect your business.