MIOSHA withdraws coronavirus mandates for most workplaces

Coronavirus

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Few businesses were hit harder by coronavirus restrictions than the hospitality industry.

“We’re so excited. The hospitality industry is truly back to being a hospitality industry again,” Johnny Brann Jr. of Brann’s Steakhouse & Grille restaurants said.

That’s not just due to Tuesday’s lifting of capacity rules for bars and restaurants. Many of the restrictions imposed under Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration orders, like mask mandates, also impacted restaurants and bars.

Those rules also ended, for the most part, Tuesday.

Under the new rules issued by MIOSHA, workplaces — with the exception of health care settings — have discretion on requiring daily health screenings, masks and social distancing. Still, the agency advises companies to follow state and federal guidance to slow the spread of the virus.

“These updates recognize the great progress we have made in Michigan to contain COVID-19 and the power of vaccinations. We will continue to provide critical workplace protections more focused on areas of increased COVID-19 risk,: Michigan COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan said in a statement. “In non-health care settings, it’s important that all employers recognize that they have a general duty to provide a safe workplace.”

“Our team is able to focus back in on that hospitality experience. Doing what we do with the basics: food, drink service,” Brann said.

At the Leonard Street Brann’s, masks will still be an option for employees and enhanced safety procedures will stay in place.

“Of course, there’s a lot of excitement. We feel like we’ve come through the other side of this very challenging 16 months,” Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker said.

“Small businesses have been among the hardest hit by this pandemic. We’ve said since the beginning that small business owners know best how to run their businesses. The restoration of the autonomy of small business owners to establish workplace practices of their choosing is an important step toward recovery. It moves Michigan more in line with the mainstream across the country.”

Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley

But don’t expect offices to suddenly fill up with maskless employees.

West Michigan’s largest employer, Spectrum Health, says it is continuing to keep some 8,000 workers who aren’t involved in patient care virtual and probably won’t bring them back to the office until at least January 2022. In a Tuesday statement, Chief Human Resources Officer Pam Ries said the keyword moving forward is flexibility and that Spectrum “do(es) not anticipate a one-size-fits-all return-to-office plan.”

“Throughout the pandemic, Spectrum Health has taken an intentional approach to gathering input and laying out various options for returning to the office based on roles and what works best for certain teams. Of our 31,000 team members, about 8,000 people are working virtually. We have shifted to a virtual first philosophy, which means that even when herd immunity is reached, we are embracing virtual work. We know the future of work is all about more flexibility, and we’ve learned that productivity remains strong. For example, we have some finance, billing, human resources, and IT roles that can effectively work from home long term. We have other teams that benefit from collaboration and face-to-face interaction and would like to be in the office at times. We provide guidance for leaders to consider as they are discussing the best approach with their teams – ranging from virtual to flexible to on-site. We do not anticipate a one-size-fits-all return-to-office plan. We have already communicated to team members that we will provide advance notice before moving into the next phase and do not anticipate a return to the office until January 2022.  There may be some roles that have a business need to return sooner which we will carefully evaluate. We’ll continue discussions and leaders will make decisions based on roles and what works best for each team.”

Pam Ries, Chief Human Resources Officer at Spectrum Health

Area business leaders agree that even with the changing of the rules, the effects of the pandemic will continue.

“I think it’s important for all of us to remember that we’re not just flipping the switch and business is back to usual,” Baker said.

The latest changes go into effect Tuesday and are scheduled to expire Dec. 22. MIOSHA says they bring Michigan in line with guidance from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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