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COVID-19 pandemic: Michigan OSHA launches emphasis program on office worker protections, remote work policies

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Lansing, MI — Michigan OSHA has launched a state emphasis program focused on protecting workers in office settings, where community spread of COVID-19 is a risk.

Under emergency rules issued by the state in October, employers must prohibit in-person work when an employee’s duties can feasibly be completed away from the office. The goal is to minimize the number of workers in a physical office setting, thereby limiting opportunities for the disease to spread.

On Nov. 6, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a strict requirement for employers to allow in-person work. Workers should be allowed in an office setting only when they’re unable to complete their job tasks from a remote location. A day earlier, MDHHS reported 18 new outbreaks tied of office settings from the previous week.

MDHHS said the requirement shouldn’t be construed as allowing in-person work because of concerns about decreased productivity or efficiency, or because of additional costs related to workers being remote, such as for equipment or software licenses.

From March to October, Michigan employers reported 30 deaths related to COVID-19 and 127 hospitalizations potentially linked to workplace exposure.

 

“Some workplaces, including offices, seem to be lax on requiring certain protocols,” MIOHSA Director Bart Pickelman said in a press release. “As our numbers rise, all workplaces in Michigan must promote and continue remote work to the absolute maximum. Congregating in any setting leads to potential spread, and remote work helps mitigate some degree of congregation.”

Under statute, Michigan can cite employers, require abatement and even fine them up to $7,000 for failing to produce a remote work policy.

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