Earlier this year, New York lawmakers passed a novel, sweeping overhaul of the State’s workplace health and safety laws. Known as the HERO Act, the law is intended to “to protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak.”
Among other things, the HERO Act requires that the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) create written model airborne infectious disease exposure prevention standards to cover Empire State workplaces. More particularly, the NYSDOL is tasked with creating separate model standards for (i) industries representing a significant portion of the workforce, or those with unique characteristics requiring distinct standards, as well as (ii) all worksites that are not included in the specific industry standards.
The NYSDOL’s publication of the model standards is important for a host of reasons, including because all New York employers – regardless of size, industry, or location – will then have 30 days from the date on which the NYSDOL publishes the model written standards, to establish their own airborne infectious disease exposure plan. This requirement can be satisfied by adopting the NYSDOL’s model standards (as applicable based on industry), which it is expected that many, if not most, New York employers will do. (The requirement can also be satisfied by instead adopting an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the NYSDOL’s standards.)
To that end, earlier today, the NYSDOL, in consultation with the New York State Department of Health, issued the long-awaited Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. The specific industries covered are agriculture, construction, delivery services, domestic workers, emergency response, food services, manufacturing and industry, personal services, private education, private transportation, and retail. All of the materials can be accessed here.