Barb Eisenmann wasn’t thinking about calling the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration after her husband, Keith, fell to his death while trying to repair a roof on their Blissfield Township family farm in 2019. Under the law, she had eight hours to report a fatality. The law allows 24 hours for injury.
Her failure to do so meant she and brother Zell would have to pay the $12,000 MIOSHA fine, which they did in 2020.
Unlike some businesses, farming is often a family-run operation, without a human resources department to take care of business. New Michigan legislation is gaining traction to allow some leeway for family farms.
On May 6, the Michigan House approved House Bill 4031, which aims to amend the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act to decrease penalties for failing to report injuries or fatalities to owners or family members at family farms.
Introducted by state Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, the bill was co-sponsored by Joe Bellino, R-Monroe; Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette; Gary Eisen, R-St. Clair Township; Graham Filler, R-DeWitt; Alex Garza, D-Taylor; Daire Rendon, R-Lake City; Angela Witwer, D-Delta Township; and Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond.
It seeks to protect a family farm when most of the business is owned by the operator or family members, and a farm is organized as a sole proprietorship, partnership or family corporation. It amends the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act and protects farmers by increasing the reporting time from eight hours to seven days and reducing the civil penalty from $5,000 to $500. Under Kahle’s legislation, fines similar to the Eisenmanns’ would be reduced by 95%.
“It is a cruel and insensitive expectation that a family should think of calling a bureaucratic agency to report the death of a loved one within hours of such a heartbreaking and life-altering event,” Kahle said in a statement.
The bill now heads to the Michigan Senate for consideration.