The Health and Essential Rights or HERO Act is going to overhaul The Big Apple’s workplace health and safety laws. Touted as a ‘game-changer,’ it is aimed to institute minimum workplace safety standards. It also requires all businesses in New York to adopt plans for airborne exposure to infectious diseases. The bill is now at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office where it will hopefully be signed into a law.
Why Workplace Health and Safety Standards?
A safe and healthy workplace is essential to the well-being of workers protecting them from injuries and accidents that could lower productivity, attract high medical costs for treatment and therapy, and decrease morale. Depending on circumstances, failure to create a safe work environment can also attract lawsuits that could be detrimental to the business or an institution. For example, Texas is one of the states with the most dangerous roads requiring complete attention when driving, especially in towns like Houston. Recording or posting videos online while driving on busy highways, like IH 35, is extremely dangerous and could result in serious car accidents. If the worst happens and you do have an accident, you and your Houston attorney can gather and present evidence of distracted driving and ask for compensation. The point is no matter in which state you are in, becoming a casualty of falls, injuries, or accidents at your place of employment can entitle you to compensation.
In this regard, central to the HERO Act is the provision of an airborne infectious disease prevention plan. It requires the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) to create and set minimum standards to prevent employees from being exposed to airborne infectious diseases at their place of work. These will include employee health screenings, required personal protective equipment, clothing, and respiratory devices, hygiene stations, regular cleaning and disinfection, and application of isolation or quarantine orders, among others. It also entails compliance with engineering standards including proper airflow, ventilation, and exhaust.
Workplace Safe Committees and Anti-Retaliation
A unique feature of the HERO Act is that employees can form workplace safe committees composed of employees in non-supervisory capacities. The members can bring up health and safety issues, hazards, and violations to the employer. Furthermore, they can participate in site visits by government institutions to enforce safety and health regulations.
In addition to worker participation, the Act has an anti-retaliation provision barring retribution against employees who exercise their rights, report a concern, or refuse to work due to the risk of exposure. Employers that do not adopt an airborne infectious disease plan will be fined $50 a day until a plan is put into operation. Those that fail to comply with the terms of plans will be charged $1,000-$10,000.
Workplace safety is a critical concern to protect the welfare of employees. If signed into law, the HERO Act provides an additional layer of protection for workers.
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Brett is the Managing Editor of this website. A former business executive turned teacher, activist, and writer, Brett also operates an anonymous Twitter account with a very large following.