COVID-19 Town Hall: Michigan’s Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety on MIOSHA, MDHHS Guidance

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Sean Egan, Michigan’s director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety, joined the Chamber to discuss why it is imperative that employers implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies and promote remote work to alleviate potential outbreaks in the workplace, especially amid the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) three-week pause to save lives. View his full presentation.

Offices continue to be a significant source of COVID-19 spread and outbreaks across the state. Outbreaks are defined by the MDHHS as two or more cases linked to an occurrence in the workplace. Egan shared the latest data; as of Nov. 12, 93 new workplace outbreaks had been reported. Of these, nine were in office settings, 28 in manufacturing or construction, 19 in retail, and 21 in restaurants in bars. It is important to note that this data only includes workplaces where the cases are highly likely to be among employees, and therefore doesn’t include places like schools, child care facilities, jails, nursing homes, and the like.

In response to this increasing trend, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) issued emergency rules on Oct. 14. Egan advises that those rules are expected to be static for six months, and that businesses become familiar with them as foundational safety guidance and layer in MDHHS and other state regulations as they are updated.

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State Emphasis Program and Inspections
Most recently, MIOSHA launched three State Emphasis Programs (SEP) focusing on offices, manufacturing, and construction. The SEPs entail proactive enforcement of MIOSHA rules through inspections conducted in response to complaints, as well as on a randomly selected basis. These inspections and increased enforcement are not intended as “gotcha” moments, advised Egan. A MIOSHA representative will announce their arrival and purpose, and work with management at the business conduct inspections.

Egan outlined some of the must-haves for businesses to consider to pass an inspection:

  • Preparedness and response plan
  • COVID-19 coordinator (doesn’t have to be management)
  • Daily health screenings
  • Training
  • Record keeping
  • Remote work policy

As far as what to expect from a MIOSHA visit, Egan advises employers not to be nervous and to just engage and talk with the MIOSHA representative. Their primary goal is to educate and offer guidance.

For an inspection, a MIOSHA representative will stop by the workplace, ask for a manager or team lead, and inform them that they are there to conduct an inspection. From there, they will sit down with the manager or team lead and discuss and review the team’s plan followed by a walkthrough to see what mitigation strategies are in place – outlining what’s good and what is missing.

“Just them stopping in does not mean you’re getting sited,” said Egan. “These are industry professionals that are there to help you.”

Egan also shared that a good preparedness plan includes categorization of risk to your workers and specific tactics in place to reduce them. An ideal plan also includes frameworks of the daily health screenings, how you’re doing training, and record keeping. You’ll also need to outline engineering controls – things that don’t rely on human behavior, like physical barriers or ventilation – and administrative controls – things that do rely on human behavior to follow your policies, like daily screenings and cleaning protocols. Make sure you have headings that align with the rules.

Remote Work Policies
A remote work policy is of particular importance at this time as keeping as many individuals as feasible out of the office will greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced into the workplace.

“The strongest safety tool you have is to get rid of that hazard completely, which is why you’re doing the daily health screenings, why you’re doing the remote work,” said Egan. “Then you don’t have COVID in the workplace and those mitigation strategies are much more effective.”

MIOSHA will be checking for a written policy. This policy can even be part of an existing preparedness plan. The policy must also outline each role and explain why or why not a job would need to be executed in person.

“You need to really have a reason and thoughtful policy on why those people are there,” said Egan. “The concept of collaboration or ‘I like my team here’ is not going to be sufficient.”

Quarantine and Isolation
There are rules in place now that you must physically isolate employees with known or suspected cases, noting suspected cases include close contacts. Close contacts include people that have come within six feet or less of someone with a confirmed case for 15 minutes or more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, a quarantine is needed when you’ve had a close contact, you’ve not had a test that’s confirmed, and you have no symptoms. The time frame for quarantine is 14 days from the date of the last close contact.

“A negative test does not get somebody out of quarantine,” said Egan. “That’s because those symptoms can develop during that 14-day period.”

Isolation happens when someone develops symptoms, are confirmed with symptoms, or asymptomatic and confirmed. This entails a 10-day period from the time the symptoms first appeared or from when they were tested. They must have also gone 24 with no fever without the intervention of medication with improvement in other symptoms as some may linger for a while.

MIOSHA Consultation Programs
MIOSHA has a few consultation programs available to offer guidance to businesses. The Ambassador Program is a proactive consultation program where MIOSHA has people in the field that will stop into certain types of businesses – mostly gyms, restaurants, bars, retail, and spaces generally open to the public that don’t normally interact with MIOSHA. These businesses also have the option to request a visit and more guidance.

For all other industries, businesses can go to MIOSHA’s website and click on the “consultation” tab and request a consultation from the experts in MIOSHA – including both on-site and off-site consultations.

“MIOSHA’s goal truly is to educate before they regulate,” said Egan. “We know that employers are working hard to mitigate risk while they’re trying to operate. We know that working people need to work, and we want to make sure that you have the tools to get open and stay open the best that we can.”

Find FAQs, fact sheets, and more resources at michigan.gov/COVIDworkplacesafety or call the MIOSHA hotline with questions at 855-SAFE-C19 (855-723-3219).


Related:

MIOSHA to Conduct Workplace Inspections to Ensure Safety Protocol Compliance in Office Settings

MIOSHA, NSF International Offering Free COVID-19 Safety Consultations for Businesses


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