Pontiac-based mortgage company and Saginaw gymnasium that was never supposed to open are among first six Michigan companies fined and cited for violating state orders to curb the spread of COVID- 19.
The six companies were cited by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration with what it called “serious violations” for failing to follow safe and healthy practices, potentially putting workers at risk. The companies were fined between $ 2,100 and $ 7,000. The total fines were $ 33,400.
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The enforcement measures are in line with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders for businesses to follow strict guidelines in order to fight the coronavirus. For months, the administration forced many companies to stop offering in-person services or implement a litany of security protocols in order to stay open.
The citations, delivered Monday and Tuesday, come after the state has received around 1,000 complaints and referrals since the end of July, MIOSHA director Bart Pickelman said in a press release on Friday.
“MIOSHA’s investigations determined that these six employers were clearly not taking the appropriate steps to protect employees and their communities from the spread of COVID-19,” Pickelman said. “These quotes aim to reiterate the employer’s duty. Precautions are needed to establish and maintain a work environment where everyone can return home safe and sound. ”
The six companies cited are:
- United Shore Financial Services, LLC, based in Pontiac. The company was fined $ 6,300.
- A UPS distribution facility based in Livonia. The company was fined $ 7,000.
- Speedway, LLC, gas station and convenience store located in Waterford. The store was fined $ 6,300.
- Coop’s Iron Works, a fitness center based in Saginaw. The company was fined $ 2,100.
- Dan Freed, a residential contractor based in Eaton Rapids. The contractor was fined $ 6,400.
- Hills Roofing, LLC based in Niles. The company was fined $ 5,300.
Companies have 15 days to appeal quotes. If a company agrees with the findings of the quote and does not appeal, it can make a deal with the state where the amount of the fine is reduced by up to 50%, Pickelman said.
Speedway and Hills Roofing did not immediately comment. The Free Press could not immediately find Freed’s contact information.
Mat Ishbia, CEO of United Shore Financial Services, has vehemently denied his company has done anything wrong. He said they were appealing the quote.
“Absolutely not,” Ishbia said in a phone interview on Friday when asked if his company had violated any facet of the state’s coronavirus orders.
“We haven’t done anything outside the order at any time, and never will. ”
Regarding United Shore, the state in its press release said an inspection had been launched there due to “multiple complaints from employees and reports from the Oakland County Health Department on COVID-19 epidemics among employees ”.
Specifically, the state said it concluded: “The employer allowed employees to work in a shared office space without wearing face covers; the employer allowed employees to work within 6 feet of each other without face coverings; the employer allowed newly hired employees to meet with a large group of over 120 people without face covers sitting within 6 feet of each other; and that employees are not notified within 24 hours of the employer’s discovery of a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 who attended the office. ”
A spokesperson for MIOSHA said on Friday that no United Shore appeals had been filed. The state declined to comment further on Ishbia’s denials.
As of mid-August, Oakland County health officials said 84 people employed by the company had confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Ishbia said 40 of those employees had been on the company’s campus since March, and the remaining 44 had not. The county updated the total number of COVID-19 cases to 95 on Friday, spokesman Bill Mullan said.
Adam Wolfe, the company’s chief legal officer, said the company employs 7,000 people and is doing everything possible to comply with orders that the company says have changed since the start of the pandemic.
The company also threatened legal action against the Free Press on Friday, arguing that past coverage was unfair.
Mullan said on Friday the local health division completed a visit to United Shore on Tuesday.
“MIOSHA’s action today regarding United Shore reflects the concerns of the Oakland County Health Division,” Mullan said in a statement.
“This includes the need for employees to wear masks when moving around the building or gathering, which the health division observed during Tuesday’s visit. The health division has also noted a number of things United Shore does, such as social distancing signage. Division of Health is committed to helping United Shore resolve issues identified by MIOSHA. ”
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The state said Coop’s Iron Works failed to properly train employees, post required signage and take other safety measures.
Michelle Cooper owns Coop’s Iron Works, along with her husband, Rob. On Friday, she admitted to receiving the citation and that the fitness center was in violation of state order by being open.
“We’re not supposed to run our business, but we would never have survived if we had been closed for this long,” Cooper said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Cooper said the company has now posted signs on its front doors and hopes to continue operating.
In a statement, a UPS spokesperson said the company is working to serve the community and keep employees safe.
“UPS continuously shares the hygiene and social distancing protocols suggested by the CDC with all employees. The company has changed and will continue to change our normal operating procedures to maintain social distancing protocols, ”said Matt O’Connor, senior director of public relations. for the company.
In an interview Friday, Michigan COVID-19 Director of Occupational Safety Sean Egan said the state had tried to educate and work with companies for months to comply with safety protocols. He noted that the state has published guidelines for months on what businesses must do to comply with state orders.
“We’re focusing on education first so employers know what they need to do to reopen safely. But failure to follow the guidelines puts everyone at risk. While these quotes are necessary to prevent possible serious illness, they do not reflect the tremendous cooperation we have seen from employers and their workers across the state, ”Egan said in a statement.
Pickelman noted that the majority of employers follow the rules. While the maximum fine of $ 7,000 is not relatively high, he said the main purpose of any enforcement action is to ensure that a company has proper practices in place. security to help its employees.
“The important part of issuing a citation is not necessarily the sanction, it’s the fact that the employer has to solve whatever the problem is and show us that they have solved it. Otherwise MIOSHA will not go away, ”Pickelman said.
Inspections, and possibly citations, will continue, Pickelman said.
Contact Dave Boucher: [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @ Dave_Boucher1.