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Unvaccinated Michigan workers are still required to wear masks – here’s how employers should enforce it

Workers can return to their offices, cleaning requirements have been eased, and vaccinated employees no longer have to mask themselves or socially distance themselves, according to Michigan’s latest COVID-19 workplace safety rules.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced two weeks ago that all workers could return to the office on Monday, May 24, but details were not announced until around noon on Monday. They come into effect immediately. The reopening of the office depended on whether 55% of Michiganders aged 16 and over received their first vaccine.

Whitmer spoke about the new rules Monday at Steelcase, a Grand Rapids furniture company.

“Today we’re here to talk about getting Michigan back to normal – to work, as we come out of this pandemic together,” Whitmer said.

RELATED: The limit of 6 per table at restaurants – which Whitmer violated over the weekend – will be removed on June 1

The new MIOSHA rules mirror other Michigan health rules, which allow fully vaccinated people to ditch their masks. Vaccinated workers also no longer have to maintain a distance of 6 feet. Someone has to be two weeks away from their last COVID-19 injection to be considered “fully vaccinated.”

Employers can do any of the following four things to meet the MIOSHA requirement that unvaccinated people continue to mask themselves and keep their distance:

  • Keep records of employees who are vaccinated and require all others to mask themselves and distance themselves
  • Post signs in work areas reminding people that unvaccinated employees should always mask themselves and keep their distance
  • Allow or require remote work for unvaccinated workers
  • Require masks and distancing for all workers, regardless of their vaccination status

To read the new MIOSHA occupational safety rules, effective immediately, Click here. While the old version was 10 pages long, the new one is six, as industry-specific rules and other requirements have been reduced. Daily self-tests are still required.

The new rules are in effect until October 14. Michigan officials had planned to create permanent COVID-19 rules for emergency rule expiration, but decided last week to abandon such plans.

Steelcase was one of several companies to bring back office workers on Monday.

“It’s a big day for Michigan,” said Jim Keane, CEO of Steelcase.

Face-to-face work fosters creativity and innovation, Keane said. Employees at Steelcase headquarters could be seen working without masks.

“We can smile at each other and people smile back at us,” Keane said. “It’s such a natural human thing that gives us a boost of energy every day.”

Yet COVID-19 has definitely changed the workplace, Keane said, as more people will choose to work from home than before. Steelcase is adapting to this not only as an employer, but also as a major producer of office furniture.

“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 companies to have their employees work remotely when possible. Business leaders are celebrating Monday’s reopening, hoping returning workers will boost city centers.

Monday marks a big step forward, said Andy Johnston, vice president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s exciting that Michigan has reached this point that it feels like we’re coming out of this pandemic and back to a sense of normalcy,” Johnston said. “(We are) optimistic about the future of our economy.”

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