On March 17, 2022, N.Y. ended the COVID-19 HERO Act requiring private-sector employers to implement workplace measures designed to combat airborne transmission.
What is the New York State HERO Act?
From the New York State Department of Health:
“The New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act) was signed into law on May 5, 2021. The law mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the NY HERO Act is to protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak.
Under this law, the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), in consultation with the NYS Department of Health, has developed an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard's minimum requirements.
The airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans must go into effect 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. When designated, employers are required to provide a copy of the adopted airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan and post the same in a visible and prominent location within each worksite.”
Why was the New York State HERO Act ended?
The HERO Act was ended thanks to falling COVID-19 rates, the emergence of less-lethal coronavirus strains, political pressure, and a popular urge to “get back to normal.”
What are some examples of workforce safety plans?
COVID-19 Workforce safety plans may include:
1) Wearing masks at work
2) Practicing social distancing
3) Constructing plexiglass and other barriers
4) Advising employees with symptoms to stay home
5) Taking employee temperatures
6) Workplace sanitizing regimes
7) Supplying hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol.
8) Supervisor notifications
9) Mandatory testing
Will COVID-19 workforce safety plans be reinstated?
That’s hard to predict. The reinstatement of COVID-19 workforce safety plans such as the New York State HERO Act depends on the severity of future coronavirus outbreaks. Hopefully, future COVID-19 outbreaks will be milder and have lower severity than past outbreaks.
With most of the U.S. protected by vaccination, booster shots, and previous COVI9-19 infections, the likelihood of having to return to earlier restrictions is probably low. However, it’s still smart business practice to prepare workforce safety plans just in case.