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Committing To Safety And Health

(3 – 5 minute read)


Seasons Change, But Our New Habits Need to be Renewed

As we enjoy the fall colors, traditions, and crisp air with some new twists, we also need to renew our commitment to keeping each other safe, both at work and in public.  As the case trends start to head in the wrong direction as predicted, we need to buckle up and double down – masks, handwashing, sanitizer, flu shots, etc.  This is really just be beginning, and if you haven’t set your own expectations that this will be a 2-3 year situation to manage thru, for your own good you may need to adjust your approach.  Running a 5k and a 50k are very different things and we need to pace ourselves accordingly. During the summer we knew fall was coming, but change is hard, so we need to remind, reinforce, and support our staff.

In Michigan, both the Department of Health &Human Services and MiOSHA have provided executive directives and/or emergency rules that replace the bulk (if not all) workplace focused Executive Orders, including some additional emphasis on a formal Workplace COVID-19 Plan, remote work, and every employer’s “general duty to protect” its workforce.  These are things that all employers are normally focused on, but took a new path in March.

In addition, the bi-partisan house bills 6030, 6031, & 6032 signed into law on October 22 reinstate the balance of the safety and workplace-focused executive orders that were disallowed.  These bills (in summary):

  • Protect individuals and entities from liability for “COVID 19 claims” as defined by the Act, so long as the person or organization complied with all federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID 19 that had not been denied legal effect at the time of the conduct or risk that allegedly caused harm.
  • Amends the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act to protect employers from liability related to an employee’s exposure to COVID 19. It provides that employers will not be liable for an employee’s exposure to COVID 19 if the employer was operating in compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID 19 that had not been denied legal effect at the time of the exposure.
  • Requires employees to stay home from work if they: (1) test positive for COVID 19; (2) display the “principal symptoms” of COVID 19; or (3) have been in close contact with someone who is positive or has principal symptoms of COVID 19. Such employees must not report to work until they meet certain criteria, which have been tweaked from the voided executive orders, specified in the Act.  It also prohibits an employer from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise retaliating against an employee who stays home for the prescribed period of time, including an employee who is off work because they displayed the principal symptoms of COVID 19 and later tested negative.Many more details than can be covered here, so touch base with your HR Business Partner to ensure compliance.Based on these changes, not only should you review your COVID plan to ensure it is in compliance, make it a regular habit to review your plan at least monthly with your management team, look for areas of improvement (you can absolutely make this part of your continuous improvement process), and then re-communicate with all staff.  Re-affirm your commitment to their health & safety, as it is really the only way to ensure you can deliver your products or services to your customers.  COVID is now part of every organization’s safety plan.

Outside of the workplace, get outside, walk, exercise, fresh air with family (not gatherings), pick some apples and connect with the outside world.  Before winter sets in, set some goals for being able to “get out” without doing so inside.  Maybe focus some holiday spending around items to help you and your family do that such as winter hiking boots, trekking poles, appropriate layered outerwear, Yaktrax or similar, x-country skis, or snowshoes are a few suggestions.

And speaking of holidays, start planning now for anyone you tend to connect with around the holidays (self, parents, kids, friends, etc.). Set clear expectations now, as strict/tight as you can based on potential worst-case scenario.  It’s always easier to loosen things up if conditions allow than leave all the options open (or pretend things will be normal), and then cancel or be more restrictive at the last minute.  This kind of disappointment will just add to what will already be a difficult season for many, and even more so under the current circumstances. This may be the time to set low expectations – which coming from an HR Service Organization is a pretty hard thing to say.

The importance of taking care of your mental health during this time cannot be overemphasized, and setting realistic expectations, especially around the holidays, a time of great joy (often coupled with great stress), needs to be managed proactively.  When needed, take advantage of employer-provided EAP programs, counseling services (almost always available remotely, and covered by insurance), or just talking out your challenges with a close friend or colleague – maybe during a hike?  Everyone is having struggles and being able to share your issues with others will often lead to solutions you may not have been able to see before.

While these areas may not be “workplace issues” they are “people issues” and your team will be facing all these obstacles, stresses, and burdens, probably with a higher degree of difficulty and fewer resources.

As always, we encourage you to reach out to your HR Business Partner to discuss options for your organization.



October 23, 2020


Axios HR


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