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.
While safety plan implementation is outside the scope of our services, we want to make sure you are aware of the posting, notice, and handbook requirements and where to find additional information. The New York Department of Labor has created a useful resource page and fact sheet. You can also read the regulations. The part of the law that addresses committees can be found on pages 7 and 8 of the bill. If you need assistance beyond what is offered on their website and within these links, we recommend reaching out to the New York Department of Labor, your local health authority, or New York State OSHA.
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 received that designation on September 6, 2021. The designation is currently set to expire September 30, 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 in the Resources section. The plans require some customization for each employer’s workplace.
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 safety and health 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.