MIOSHA Issues Warning to Membership

In case you missed it, MITA recently hosted a ZOOM meeting with Director of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bart Pickleman, MIOSHA Director Lawrence Hildalgo, and MIOSHA Manager Eric Allen. The program lasted over an hour and yielded some insight into the MIOSHA stance concerning the ongoing COVID-19 issues that contractors are facing.

Mr. Pickleman made it abundantly clear that MIOSHA has been charged with enforcing the governor’s Executive Orders (EO) by way of citations issued via the General Duty Clause that state, in paraphrase: an employer is required to provide a workplace free from recognizable hazards. This is clearly a catch-all rule for when the department has no specific rule in place, but feels the need to issue citations. This is a bit troubling considering all the EOs contain language such as: “if possible”, “the following guidance,” etc., but they are now de facto laws.

When asked why not issue safety recommendations, Mr. Pickleman responded that they would probably consider using some of those, too. It should be noted that there is no such thing as an other than serious General Duty violation; they are always considered serious and cannot be negotiated down. The violation has to either be amended to a specific rule or dismissed at the appellate level. In any event, this is a clear warning to contractors that they’ve found a tool for enforcement issues related to COVID-19.

A strong position was also taken by MIOSHA regarding the use of N95 masks, which they feel is the mask of choice, as discussed in their COVID-19 work place guideline presentation found here. They also have built a COVID-19 website for all the industries LARA has enforcement over, which can be found here. All of this information is good; but, as usual, when MITA and the industry were struggling to understand and react, MIOSHA was offering little or no guidance. Now, months down the road, we have to again go through the process of determining if we are living up to the spirit of the EOs.

The meeting all in all was cordial and informative. A recording can be found here, using the password Mitasafe#1.

The hour-long discussion concerning Trenching Excavation and Shoring, as well as the efforts related to the safety stand-down can be found here. Please remember that excavation and roadwork are on the National Emphasis Program, and thus will be scrutinized at a higher level for the foreseeable future.

Please also remember that MITA provides job site inspection services to members across the state free of charge! To schedule one, please contact Greg Brooks, Director of Safety & Compliance, at gregbrooks@thinkmita.org, or call the MITA office at 517-347-8336.