Workers can return to offices, cleaning requirements have been lightened and vaccinated employees no longer have to mask up or social distance, per Michigan’s newest COVID-19 workplace safety rules.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced two weeks ago that all workers could come back to offices on Monday, May 24, but specifics weren’t announced until nearly noon on Monday. They go into effect immediately. The office reopening was contingent on 55% of Michiganders 16 and older getting their first vaccine shot.
Whitmer spoke of the new rules Monday at Steelcase, a Grand Rapids furniture company.
“Today, we are here to talk about Michigan getting back to normal – back to work, as we emerge from this pandemic together,” Whitmer said.
The new MIOSHA rules mirror other Michigan health rules, which allow fully vaccinated people to ditch their masks. Vaccinated workers also don’t have to maintain 6 feet of distancing, anymore. Somebody must be two weeks out from their final COVID-19 shot to be considered “fully vaccinated.”
Employers can do one of four things to satisfy the MIOSHA requirement requiring unvaccinated people still mask up and distance:
- Keep records of which employees are vaccinated and require all others to mask and distance
- Post signs in work areas reminding people that unvaccinated employees must still mask and distance
- Allow or require remote work for unvaccinated workers
- Require masks and distancing for all workers, regardless of vaccine status
To read the new MIOSHA workplace safety rules, effective immediately, click here. While the old version was 10 pages, the new one is six – as the industry-specific rules and other requirements have been trimmed. Daily self screenings are still required.
The new rules are in effect until Oct. 14. Michigan leaders had planned to create permanent COVID-19 rules for when the emergency rules expired, but decided last week to abandon such plans.
Steelcase was one of many businesses to bring office workers back on Monday.
“It’s a big day for Michigan,” said Jim Keane, Steelcase CEO.
In-person work spurs creativity and innovation, Keane said. Employees could be seen at the Steelcase headquarters working unmasked.
“We can smile at each other and people smile back,” Keane said. “That is such a natural human thing that gives us a boost of energy every day.”
Still, COVID-19 has permanently changed the workplace, Keane said, as more people will opt to work from home than before. Steelcase is adjusting to that not just as an employer, but also as a major office furniture producer.
“Our meetings are going to feel different, the nature of the work we do in the office is different and the nature of the work we do at home is different,” Keane said.
Throughout the pandemic, MIOSHA has required businesses to have employees work remotely when feasible. Business leaders are celebrating Monday’s reopening, hoping returning workers will stimulate downtowns.
Monday marks a big step forward, said Andy Johnston, vice president at Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s exciting that Michigan has reached this point that feels like we’re moving out of this pandemic and returning to a sense of normalcy,” Johnston said. “(We’re) optimistic about what lies ahead for our economy.”