New York recently passed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which requires employers to adopt an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan. It also gives employees the right to form employee-management safety committees. On September 6, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease under the HERO Act. This designation requires all employers to implement their workplace safety plans.
Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan
Employers must implement a prevention plan when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a highly contagious, communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to public health; COVID-19 has received that designation. The designation is currently set to expire September 30th, but we expect that it will be extended.
The state has created template plans for employers, available here. If your organization falls into one of the listed industries, you must use that plan. If your organization does not fit into any of the specified industries (like most professional services), you can use the model plan. The plans require some customization for each employer’s workplace.
You will need to take several steps to comply with the law:
- Download the most appropriate plan, fill it out, and distribute it to employees.
- Post a filled-out version somewhere conspicuous in the workplace.
- Add the customized plan to your employee handbook if you have one.
- Review the plan with employees orally.
- Put the plan into effect by following the plan’s requirements.
Joint Employee-Management Safety Committees
Employers with 10 or more employees must establish and administer—or allow employees to establish and administer—a joint employee-management workplace safety committee to ensure that workers play an integral role in workplace safety and are able to raise health safety concerns without fear of retaliation. Committee members are entitled to be paid for up to two hours of meeting time per quarter and up to four hours of training time related to their committee work.
This requirement goes into effect on November 1, 2021. The New York Department of Labor plans to issue regulations regarding workplace safety committee requirements in the future, which should help employers understand the extent of their obligations.
For more details, please check out our YouTube video on the NY HERO Act.