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A manager discusses a new plan that would be implemented at the company in the occurrence of a highly contagious, airborne, infectious disease that presented a serious risk to public health.
The New York Health and Essential Rights (NY HERO) Act aims to provide greater protection to workers from the exposure of future airborne infectious diseases in the workplace.

The law requires employers to adopt a plan that would enable a business to take immediate action to protect workers in the event the Commissioner of Health designates a specific airborne infectious disease as “highly contagious”, “communicable” and that presents “serious risk of harm to the public health.”  

The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) officially published its Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard on July 6, 2021, requiring employers within 30 days either to: (1) adopt one of the model standard exposure prevention plans applicable to their industry, or (2) create and adopt an alternative prevention plan that meets or exceeds the minimum standards.

It is important to note; While employers are now required to have adopted a plan as of Aug. 5, 2021, as of the publication date of this article, no designation has been made for an airborne infectious disease and plans are not required to be in effect.

 

Who Does the NY HERO Act Affect?

All employers with worksite employees within New York state — full-time and part-time workers, independent contractors, domestic workers, seasonal workers, and contractors or subcontractors working on a worksite — are impacted. However, all public-sector employers and/or independent contractors working for the state are currently excluded from the requirements and protections.

What is Required of Employers Under the NY HERO Act?

Each plan should contain requirements for the following:

  • Exposure controls (e.g., health screening, face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning/disinfection, etc.)
  • Employee training
  • Procedures for what should be done in the event of exposure
  • Designation of supervisory employees who are responsible for enforcing compliance with the plan
    Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against any employee for exercising their rights under the adopted plan, reporting an exposure, reporting a violation of the adopted plan or refusing to work if in good faith there is unreasonable risk of exposure to an airborne infectious disease.

The NYSDOL has provided a general Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Plan template, as well as 11 industry-specific templates. An employer may select to use the general template or create/adopt their own that meets or exceeds the minimum standards — but they must also “consider and incorporate” controls that are industry-specific.

What Happens If I Do Not Comply with the Law?

Employers may be fined $50 per day or more for failing to adopt an airborne infectious disease prevention plan. Employers who neglect to follow the prevention plan they have adopted may face fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 by the state Commissioner of Health, with a likely substantial increase in fines if repeated infractions occur within six years.

What’s Next After Adopting a Plan?

By Sept. 4, 2021, employers must post the adopted prevention plan in a visible and prominent location, and it must be added to any employee handbooks. Additionally, the adopted plan must be presented in English, as well as any other primary languages of a business’ employees, to all:

  • Current employees
  • New employees upon hiring
  • All employees (again) within 15 days of a worksite reopening following an airborne infectious disease-related closure

Effective Nov. 1, 2021, employers with at least 10 employees must begin allowing employees to form joint labor-management workplace safety committees. The purpose of this committee is to review and oversee existing policies related to occupational safety and health.

Oasis Can Help

Employers who have had to adapt operations to comply with new guidelines and safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic understand the additional complexities this brings to running a business. Oasis understands and offers HR Services that include safety representatives and support with the creation and/or updating of handbooks. Employers might also want to consider implementing or updating their business continuity plan.

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