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Published in Economic Development

New state ambassador program seeks to help businesses comply with pandemic regulations

BY MIBIZ STAFF Tuesday, September 08, 2020 03:57pm

Two state agencies have joined forces to help businesses understand new workplace safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity on Tuesday formally launched an ambassador program making officials available to visit businesses statewide to serve as a resource on workplace safety.

These ambassadors will focus on workplace environments that are associated with high virus transmission rates, such as bars, restaurants, gyms and convenience and retail stores.

The ambassadors will work directly with business owners to ensure they are staying in compliance with both state regulations detailed in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders and with federal guidelines.

An ambassador is able to provide guidance on a myriad of workplace safety issues, from providing a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan to going over the nuances of the MIOSHA guidelines.

“Michigan businesses and workers need support during these challenging times,” Sean Egan, Michigan COVID-19 Workplace Director, said in a statement. “Education is essential with new guidance and directives regularly changing as we continue to battle with COVID-19. Ambassadors will work with businesses to correct any issues. We want to help employers understand and apply directives so they can comply, stay open and stay safe.”

In July, MIOSHA announced its State Emphasis Program covering retail businesses, restaurants, bars, convenience stores and other service industry establishments. The program focuses on educating and seeking compliance with guidelines and rules designed to protect communities against the spread of COVID-19.

“Support for people and businesses during this time is critical,” Business Leaders for Michigan President and CEO Doug Rothwell said in a statement about the new ambassador program. 

“We have to be vigilant and work together to support a strong economy and limit the spread of the virus. But it all starts with education. Business owners want to do their part, but they need to know exactly what is required of them.”

The programs come as the pandemic has ushered in a deluge of workplace complaints.

Last month, the Detroit News reported that MIOSHA had seen monthly complaints of unsafe work environments rise from about 100 per month before the pandemic to roughly 1,000 per month during the pandemic. 

By March, MIOSHA had received more complaints this year than it did in 2018 and 2019 calendar years, the report stated.

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