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OSHA Steps Up Random Inspections of Coronavirus Safety Measures at Michigan Restaurants and Grocery Stores

Establishments with “major” compliance issues could face up to $7,000 in fines

A female cashier in medical protective mask and face shield with a red apron working at supermarket. pixfly/Shutterstock
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Over the past five months, business across Michigan have been adjusting to a fluid list of new regulations and executive orders to fight the spread of novel coronavirus. At the same time, customers and employees have developed a social media forums and pages to track safety compliance among those same businesses. Now, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) is planning to step up its inspections to help improve safety for workers in restaurants, bar, and retail industries.

Pointing to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the state, MIOSHA says it will be making “inspections by referral or randomly at bars and restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores, grocery stores, and other retail establishments,” per a release. Establishments with “major deficiencies in the employer’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plans” could face fines of up to $7,000.

The efforts to step up inspections are coming in the form of a State Emphasis Program (SEP). The program will focus not only on making sure businesses are complying with the rules to keep their employees and customers safe but also provide more education specific to service industries. The focus of this SEP is to educate and seek compliance with guidelines and rules that will protect workers and customers in locations serving the public where community spread of COVID-19 is a risk. The department also provided some basic recommendations for restaurants, bars, and retail businesses trying to operate safely including:

  • Conducting daily health screenings of employees and contractors
  • Requiring employees and customers wear face coverings properly
  • Considering changes to indoor ventilation to reduce transmission risk
  • Implementing enhanced cleaning protocols when employees or the public become sick
  • Posting required signs and notifying customers of their obligation to wear face coverings, if medically tolerated, and not entering if they feel sick
  • Maintaining compliance with social distancing and capacity limits of the establishment
  • Ensuring that they have and use a preparedness and response plan

More information on MIOSHA guidelines for restaurants and bars are available online. Federal OSHA data shows that the Michigan office has received hundreds of complaints about local businesses including restaurants. Many of the complaints list health and safety concerns. The federal agency is also tracking thousands of national COVID-19 related complaints with a focus on particular industries including restaurants and grocery stores. Despite these complaints, some critics say that OSHA’s national response has been inadequate to protect workers during the health crisis.

Complaints and other health and safety concerns can be filed online at the MIOSHA website or by calling the MIOSHA hotline at 855-723-3219. The state of Michigan also provides guidelines on how to report other coronavirus-related concerns depending on the situation or industry. Federal OSHA complaint forms are also available online.

Of course, OSHA isn’t the only agency monitoring compliance. Many local health departments are also doing site visits and reviewing protocols during inspections. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission held a hearing last week to review the situation that led up to a massive outbreak connected with Harper’s bar in East Lansing. The bar is now required to undergo a plan review before reopening and a formal inspection to make sure it’s in compliance.

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