Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced “slimmed down” COVID-19 emergency safety rules that begin to ease workplace restrictions and guidelines for employers.
The updated Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) COVID-19 emergency rules come on the same day that companies are no longer required to have a policy prohibiting in-person work if it can be done remotely.
In addition to reopening in-person work, the updated MIOSHA rules say employers can exempt fully vaccinated workers from wearing face masks and social distancing. Cleaning requirements have also been updated to reflect the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new rules eliminate industry-specific requirements, although employers should continue to have COVID-19 preparedness and response plans.
At a televised press conference in Grand Rapids today at Steelcase Inc., Whitmer said MIOSHA is “taking several steps to help businesses return to normalcy.”
“Together we’re eliminating this once in a century virus and are poised to jumpstart the economy and bring it to new highs,” Whitmer said.
As part of a deal brokered with top Republican lawmakers last week, Whitmer also abandoned plans for permanent COVID-19 workplace safety rules that were under development to replace the emergency rules in mid-October.
MIOSHA started the permanent rulemaking process earlier this year “because none of us knew … how effective these vaccines would be at bringing down cases and hospitalizations,” Whitmer said.
As workplace restrictions ease, companies across Michigan have taken various approaches to bringing workers back while a majority of workers have shown interest in new hybrid policies that include at least some level of remote working in the long term, as MiBiz reported this week.
Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Acting Director Susan Corbin said today that employers can continue to require vaccinated workers to wear face coverings and social distance if they choose.
“We know many want to keep remote working, and that’s OK too,” Corbin said, adding that the “best mitigation tool” to ensure worker and customer safety is through vaccinations.
State officials also announced an updated order from the state Department of Health and Human Services that eliminates outdoor capacity limits and increases limits for indoor social gatherings such as weddings and conferences to 50 percent. That order takes effect on June 1.
On July 1, all statewide COVID-19 restrictions involving masking and capacity limits will be lifted.