HAVLICEK: Together we can stay safe, stay in compliance, stay open

Earlier this month, I wrote about the state of Michigan’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration enforcement effort seeking to enhance compliance at business establishments around the state.

If you’ll recall, MIOSHA announced they would conduct inspections, either by referral or randomly, at public facing businesses such as bars, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores and other retail establishments. During these inspections, MIOSHA staff will evaluate the employer’s compliance with existing MIOSHA standards, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Orders, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they pertain to protecting workers.

We warned that while inspections primarily seek to help employers comply with safety standards, citations and penalties up to $7,000 could be issued if the inspections determined major deficiencies in the employer’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plans.

Since then, six businesses from across the state were fined a combined $33,400 for COVID-19 related violations that included not taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously, according to a MIOSHA press release. Unfortunately, one of the six was from Berrien County.

Among the most common violations cited by MIOSHA staff were:

• Allowing workers within six feet of one another when proper social distancing was feasible;

• Not requiring workers to wear face coverings when they were within six feet of each other;

• Not having developed a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response plan which would have included requirements for social distancing and face coverings; and

• Not conducting the proper employee training on COVID-19 that covered social distancing and the use of face coverings.

While we have serious concerns regarding the steep penalties due to inspectors witnessing a “snapshot in time,” many of these citations were avoidable. We cannot emphasize this enough: every business owner must take the appropriate steps to protect their employees and their communities from the spread of COVID-19, and we at the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber want to ensure you have everything you need to be in compliance.

If you still need a preparedness and response plan, we have customizable templates on our chamber’s website: smrchamber.com/covid-19-resources/p-and-r-plan. These are templates that should be tailored to your particular risk level, implemented and maintained.

If you need additional personal protection equipment, Berrien County businesses have produced everything you need. A list of local options can be found at berrienreopens.org/ppe-resources.

Additional industry-specific guidance and resources can be found at Michigan.gov/covidworkplacesafety. These guidelines are constantly evolving, so please take a moment to refresh yourself on the practices applicable to your industry.

The overwhelming majority of businesses are doing their part to keep our economy open while following the proper guidance. Given that only six businesses where cited in a statewide inspection effort proves that is true at scale.

For those who need help or have questions, do not hesitate to call us at (269) 932-4042. Together, we can stay safe, stay in compliance and stay open.

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