MIOSHA Extends Emergency Rules – Local Contractors Respond

In case you missed it, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) extended its emergency rules until October 14, 2021 to protect Michigan workers from the spread of COVID-19. While this may seem like a blow to the upcoming busy summer season, local construction businesses are feeling confident. 

But first, let’s look at why MIOSHA decided to extend the emergency rules and guidelines.

Justification for Extension

First, some context. COVID-19 case data from the state itself and the New York Times show that as of April 26, Michigan’s average daily new case rate and average daily death rate are the highest in the country at 5,423 and 68 respectively.

MIOSHA justified the extension of the emergency rules by taking into account the statewide trend mentioned above, as well as these disturbing workplace statistics. 

Since March 2020:

MIOSHA Emergency Rules Graphic
From Construction Dive: The MIOSHA emergency rules mandate that businesses write a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, provide proper training, use proper PPE, and notify workers on how to report symptoms of or a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. 
  • Michigan employers have reported over 40 worker deaths from COVID-19
  • MIOSHA received over 12,000 complaints from employees alleging COVID-19 hazards in the workplace
  • Over 605 referrals were received from local governments and health departments indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from infection. 

Additionally, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) data covering September 3, 2020 through April 1st, 2021, manufacturing and construction workplace outbreaks were the highest of every other industry category at 670.

“As we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the rules reinforce the importance of keeping workplaces safe for employees from COVID-19 transmission,” said COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “We want employers to create a safe work environment for their employees, which is why we will continue to work with employees and businesses to help them understand how to safely stay open.”

If you or your business needs help communicating the emergency orders, here are a few MIOSHA resources: 

Whether you’re an employer or employee, direct any questions regarding workplace safety and health MIOSHA using the new hotline at 855-SAFE-C19 (855-723-3219).

Industry Responses

According to a recent Construction Dive article, many state construction companies are feeling confident that their projects will continue as “normal” – by pandemic standards, anyway.

Damian Hill, president of Associated General Contractors of Michigan, said his members are still able to complete projects by simply following COVID-19 protocols put in place last spring, including masks and social distancing. He also said that many construction workers in the state have been vaccinated.

Back in March 2020, Southfield, Michigan-based Barton Malow halted more than 100 projects and drafted formal COVID-19 safety guidelines. Now, senior vice president of planning, safety, and risk management Neal Morton said that initial work prepared them to continue working despite the new surge.

“Aside from reinforcing our guidelines on a regular basis and making sure that our on-site workers are staying compliant, little has changed,” Morton said. “We know how this virus spreads and what needs to be done to mitigate this spread, and we also know that the workplace guidelines that we’ve enacted pose a very low risk of transmission when followed.”

Looking ahead

While construction projects might be able to continue despite the extended rules, there are other, long-term factors that builders should consider, said Benjamin Briggs, labor and employment partner at Cotney Construction Attorneys.

“While not necessarily as dire as a complete shutdown, the extension of MIOSHA’s COVID-19 rules do carry significant legal implications for employers,” Briggs said. For example, violations of the emergency rules can subject employers to fines of up to $7,000 per violation, with increased penalties for repeated violations.

Briggs also warns contractors to keep themselves open to possible project delays and price increases. The recent surge in cases could lead to jobsite exposure, Briggs said, which could lead to a decline of available workforce in the state and complications on completion dates of projects. 

As a result, he advised contractors to ensure that all of their contracts include force majeure clauses, which could excuse delays brought on by COVID-19 shutdowns or workforce shortages.

Additionally, following the extended emergency rules on job sites may increase costs, Briggs said. He advises contractors to review their contracts to see if such increases are compensable and submit change orders for them.

Michigan might be going through a difficult COVID-19 spike right now, but thankfully that doesn’t mean your project schedule needs to be totally upended. We heard from just a few industry voices in this article, but now we want to hear yours! What has the past year looked like for you and your business? Have you been able to finish projects while following guidelines? Tell us your story by emailing us here. You might be featured in an upcoming blog! 

And remember, Michigan Builders or M&A Contractors –  if your license expires this year, your continuing education deadline is May 31st! 

Click here to complete your CE online around your busy project schedule!