fbpx
Published in Health Care
State budget deal withdraws proposed permanent COVID-19 workplace safety rules COURTESY PHOTO

State budget deal withdraws proposed permanent COVID-19 workplace safety rules

BY Thursday, May 20, 2021 10:39pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders cut a deal Thursday that includes withdrawing proposed permanent COVID-19 workplace safety rules.

Scrapping the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) initiative is part of broader state budget negotiations for the next fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, and how to spend the billions of dollars Michigan received in federal stimulus funding.

“As we emerge from the pandemic together, our number-one goal is to get Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economic recovery,” Whitmer said in an announcement Thursday evening. “Today’s bipartisan framework shows how we can unite around investing in our schools, small businesses, and communities to help them thrive.”

Under the agreement, MIOSHA also will remove a requirement that employers create a “policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely,” according to the announcement.

The governor and legislature have to decide how to use more than $2 billion remaining in CARES Act funding and nearly $20 billion from the American Rescue Plan. The announcement on the bipartisan agreement said that with a “large boost” in state revenues that’s expected to come Friday at a consensus revenue estimating conference in Lansing, “Michigan is in a very strong position to make large investments that can transform the state and help our residents and businesses recover from the pandemic.”

Business advocates had derided MIOSHA’s proposed permanent workplace rules that would have stayed in effect after state emergency orders expire.

An announcement on the agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, came hours after Whitmer accelerated plans for lifting restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

“This is a huge day for small business owners everywhere. We now have a date certain when capacity restrictions will be lifted, the prospect of permanent workplace rules is being pulled off the table, and all parties are committed to working together on potential future epidemic emergency orders,” Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley said in a statement. “This will give entrepreneurs a much more clear and certain pathway to recovery. We applaud the governor and the legislature for working hard to come together and putting aside their differences in this comprehensive agreement.” 

The proposed eight pages of rules involve determining COVID-19 exposure risk at worksites, preparedness and response plans, basic infection prevention measures, health screenings and providing personal protection equipment. The proposed rules also include industry-specific requirements, and a provision to promote remote work when possible.

Shirkey said in a statement that the governor’s agreement to “pull back her heavy-handed MIOSHA rules is a good faith gesture that she is willing to work with the Legislature.”

The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association applauded the deal and cooperation between the governor and lawmakers.

“Roughly $400 million of direct relief for the hospitality industry has been up in the air for months due to sour dispositions between the governor and legislature,” MLBA Executive Director Scott Ellis said in a statement. “We’ve long offered to put them in a room with strong drinks until they resolve their differences, but we’re glad to see they’ve done it on their own.”

On Wednesday, nine business groups wrote to MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman urging the withdrawal of the proposed permanent rules, saying that “(A)s the COVID-19 emergency begins to wane and more people are vaccinated, this is not the time to move forward” with a proposal that did not align with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“The business community stands ready to engage in further discussions to craft rules that address worker safety but that also allow for flexibility as the science and data continue to evolve,” the letter states. “Following federal guidelines allows employee safety to remain a priority but also ensures that Michigan will be able to effectively compete with other states as we look to retain and attract business to Michigan as we rebuild the economy.”

The letter was backed by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Manufacturers Association, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan office of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Small Business Association of Michigan, Michigan Retailers Association, Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association and Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.

Read 3658 times Last modified on Friday, 21 May 2021 09:13
SUBSCRIBE TO MIBIZ TODAY FOR WEST MICHIGAN’S FINEST BUSINESS NEWS REPORTING >