By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force
Well over a year after the pandemic began, federal OSHA has declined to adopt a set of COVID-19 regulations for general industry. Just yesterday, federal OSHA announced that it had “completed” the rulemaking process for the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard, which will only apply to healthcare industry employers. This long awaited rule is expected to be released later today. While federal OSHA has been evaluating whether a COVID-19 ETS is even necessary, several states have been aggressive in passing their own workplace safety and health rules related to COVID-19. Most recently, New York State passed the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act), which went into effect just last week on June 4, 2021. New York State joins a number of states that have promulgated COVID-19 regulations, including California, Virginia, Oregon, Michigan, and, in the near future, Maryland. In light of federal OSHA’s decision to adopt COVID-19 regulations solely related to the health care industry, several other states may take action to implement their own COVID-19 regulations. New York State’s HERO Act, however, goes even one step further. The HERO Act is not solely focused on COVID-19, it addresses any and all airborne infectious diseases.
New York is also the first state in the country to require its Department of Labor to develop “industry-specific” health and safety standards for private sector employers to reduce the risk of airborne illnesses for employees (including but not limited to COVID-19). New York employers should move quickly to adopt safety and health plans and revise employee handbooks to conform with the Act’s requirements. Below is an overview of the key provisions of the Act. Continue reading