On September 6, 2021 Governor Kathy Hochul announced the designation of COVID-19 as an airborne infectious disease under the new NY HERO Act. This designation requires all NY private employers to “activate” their HERO Act Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plans.
As a reminder, under this new law (Section 218-b of the New York Labor Law), the New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL), in consultation with the NYS Department of Health, has developed a new 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 NYS standard and model template/plans can be found here.
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.
Now that such a designation has been made, employers are required to “activate” their plans which includes the following:
Immediately review the worksite’s exposure prevention plan and update the plan, if necessary, to ensure that it incorporates current information, guidance, and mandatory requirements issued by federal, state, or local governments related to the infectious agent of concern;
Finalize and promptly activate the worksite exposure prevention plan;
Provide the verbal review required through employee training (all employees must be verbally trained on the plan’s details and procedures);
Provide each employee with a copy of the exposure prevention plan and posting a copy of the plan and ensuring that a copy of the plan is accessible to employees during all work shifts.
It will be crucial for employers to stay educated on the latest guidance, regulations, orders, rules, and recommendations from government entities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NYSDOH, and other federal, state, or local government entities as it pertains to COVID-19.