Jan. 11, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
State Sen. Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill aimed at protecting employees from contracting COVID-19 by improving workplace safety standards.
The bill, called the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO), would require businesses to implement a range of safety standards in order to reduce the spread of the disease in the workplace.
The legislation, if passed, would put in place a new set of workplace guidelines for personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, disinfecting and hand hygiene. New employee health screenings would also be required.
Gianaris said the bill would help to better protect employees who have been risking their safety by going to work. The bill was introduced on Jan. 6 and is now in committee.
“Too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community’s benefit,” Gianaris said. “The New York HERO Act will honor their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job.”
Under the legislation, the New York State Department of Health and the Dept. of Labor would be tasked with coming up with the new standards and would also be in charge of enforcing them.
The standards would require businesses to put in place protective barriers–such as those made out of plexiglass–and shields in order to keep workers safe. Businesses would also be required to provide appropriate protective clothing for workers.
Other measures include implementing social distancing rules using appropriate signs and markers.
Hand hygiene stations would have to be made easily accessible to workers and new procedures on disinfecting surface areas and shared equipment would also be necessary.
Businesses would have to ensure that there are proper airflow and exhaust ventilation systems at the workplace as well.
Furthermore, workers would be able to set up their own workplace health and safety committees in order to monitor the new standards, raise complaints and report violations. The bill would protect employees from workplace retaliation for doing so.
The legislation is supported by more than 100 labor, community, and safety organizations.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos is co-sponsoring the bill and said that the bill is a necessary step to protect the lives of working families during the pandemic and in the years ahead.
“During this pandemic, our workforce has put their lives and the lives of their families at risk in order to keep New York running,” Ramos said.