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Michigan Starts Loosening Public Pandemic Safety Rules. Employers Are Told to Follow MDHHS While They Await MIOSHA Updates.

May 20, 2021

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Michigan reached the first stage of the Governor’s Vacc to Normal plan with over 55% of Michigan’s population now having at least one COVID-19 vaccination. As of May 24th the work from home order will be rescinded. In addition, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) revised its masking rules, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its Gathering and Face Mask Order to coincide with those new rules.

Although at first the new rules only applied to the general public and customer facing environments, on Monday the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Agency (MIOSHA) issued guidance that says it considers the MDHHS rules as applied to fully vaccinated persons sufficient to meet MIOSHA workplace safety rules. Michigan emergency rules remain in place for now – technically creating a dilemma for employers.

Sean Egan, Michigan Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Deputy Director for Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) stated Monday that its remote work rule should be lifted by May 24th. MIOSHA is “working to update for alignment with the recent CDC and MDHHS updates, the remote work rule itself should stay around the 24th.”

Worker safety protocols will still need to be in place. So far MIOSHA has not indicated a departure from any of workplace safety rules and it will be interesting to see whether MIOSHA modifies any other requirements.

OSHA, the federal agency responsible for nationwide workplace safety and health, stated on Monday, May 17 that it will defer, for now, to the CDC’s guideline as well as the individual state and local orders that address COVID safety and health rules for protection.

The new Face Masking requirements state:

All persons participating in indoor gatherings are required to wear a face mask and those responsible for establishments that could have indoor gatherings are required to make a good faith effort to ensure that all persons are wearing masks.

An exception to the face mask requirements applies to the following:

  • Are fully vaccinated persons;
  • Are younger than 2 years old;
  • Cannot medically tolerate a face mask;
  • Are eating or drinking while seated in a designated area or at a private residence;
  • Are swimming;
  • Are receiving a medical or personal care service for which removal of the face mask is necessary;
  • Are asked to temporarily remove a face mask for identification purposes;
  • Are communicating with someone who is deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing and whose ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;
  • Are actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, and where wearing a face mask would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities;
  • Are engaging in a religious service;
  • Are giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least 12 feet away from the speaker; or
  • Are engaging in an activity that requires removal of a mask not listed in another part of this section, and are in a facility that provides ventilation that meets or exceeds 60 ft3/min of outdoor airflow per person.

You can view the full May 15 Gatherings and Face Mask Order here. Business can still choose whether or not to require face masks for everyone, whether they are vaccinated or not.

As employers enter the next phase of re-opening, they should focus on Michigan regulatory guidance (MIOSHA & MDHHS) and the CDC to make sure they do not get caught getting ahead of the workplace safety and health protections and protocols.

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