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MIOSHA To Stress Compliance Of Federal COVID Workplace Vaccination Rules

November 9, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is required to enforce new federal rules requiring employers with 100 or more employees require COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees, but state officials will not be pushing any additional requirements beyond the federal rule. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has 30 days to make sure the state is complying with the federal rule that was crafted with the goal of shielding workers from falling ill from the virus and stunting its spread.

The Whitmer administration is encouraging Michiganders to get vaccinated as a way to keep people safe and keep the economy strong, but is not pushing its own rules or mandates at this time, according to Whitmer Press Secretary Bobby Leddy.

The statement comes as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advanced its rule impacting 84 million employees nationwide. Also coming from Washington D.C. is a rule that all health care workers employed at facilities that accept Medicaid or Medicare patients must be vaccinated.

Finally, any federal contractor must have its workers fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

Federal officials believe OHSA has broad authority to issue and enforce health and safety standards to protect workers in staying safe and healthy on the job — like precautions against bloodborne diseases, excessive noise and falls from dangerous heights.

A standard maximum fine for noncompliance is $14,000 per incident, but federal officials are stressing that the goal is to push compliance and get more vaccinations, not to punish anyone.

“American employers have an opportunity to save lives, strengthen our economy, and accelerate the end of this pandemic. It’s time for all employers to step up and do their part,” reads an opinion article U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients wrote in The U.S. Today.

A coalition of some 22 business groups, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Retailers Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors strongly objected to Friday’s rules, but urged MIOSHA inspectors to implement the new rules fairly and consistently.

Michigan Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley said the Biden administration has “made a serious mistake” by not allowing workers to have input into the crafting of the 490 pages of rules. The coalition supports more vaccinations as a sensible goal, but not through a “massive, complex and top-down mandate that bypassed the traditional rulemaking process.”

“After a process shrouded in secrecy, job providers already in a labor shortage entering the busy holiday season are left to wade through hundreds of pages of regulations and figure out how they will comply under the threat of steep financial penalties,” Studley said.

On the political end of things, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) issued a press release emphasizing the $136,532 penalty a company could face for willfully violating the new rules.

“Despite shutting down Michigan’s economy multiple times, causing countless businesses to permanently shutter, it appears Gretchen Whitmer’s war on small business is just getting started,” said RGA spokesperson Chris Gustafson. “By adopting Joe Biden’s federal vaccine overreach, Whitmer is all but ensuring Michigan’s lackluster economic recovery will only get worse.”

Republican Attorney General candidate Tom Leonard called on Attorney General Dana Nessel to “stand with Michigan businesses and oppose” the federal rules.

A legal challenge against the rules is expected and Leonard said Nessel should stand with those attorneys general who are interested in fighting them.

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