PROTECT NEW YORK'S HEROES (S. 1034B Gianaris/ A. 2681B Reyes)

New York State was left to its own at the onset of this pandemic with little- to-no help from the federal government. Information on proper safety protocols was either not available or was late and in confusing and conflicting constructs. The national response was slow and disjointed and as a result too many of our essential workers and their families were needlessly exposed to COVID-19. The subsequent devastation of so many lives and families is something we must ensure never happens again.

Currently, there are no state level compulsory workplace safety standards in place to protect workers from exposure to airborne infectious disease. This deficiency has put countless New York workers at enhanced risk of exposure to COVID-19. This legislation would alleviate some of that enhanced risk.

This bill would require the Commissioner of Labor to promulgate an airborne infectious disease prevention standard for all worksites to establish minimum requirements for preventing exposure. Employers would be required to adopt exposure prevention plans at least as protective as the Commissioner’s standard. The standard and plans must include, among other things, requirements for health screenings; PPE; social distancing; and compliance with law, engineering controls, and quarantine orders. All private sector workplaces would be covered, including worksites of independent contractors. The bill includes training for workers, oversight, and enforcement provisions.

This legislation will help business and other private sector venues to prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks and establish proper protocols and safety measures. Proper planning will not only protect essential workers but help to contain the spread and allow businesses to operate safely rather than completely shut down. In the event the federal government adopts a national workplace safety standard then that will take precedent. However, in any instances where the federal government fails to act, this bill will ensure New York is prepared, and workers are protected.