NY HERO Act to improve workplace safety post-pandemic approved by lawmakers

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York Legislature passed a bill that aims to improve and enforce health and safety standards in the workplace, but business leaders argue the legislation goes too far with stringent regulations, especially during a time when many are struggling to stay afloat.

“I argue that there is no better time to protect the lives of our workers, of our communities and of our industries,” Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, one of the bill’s sponsors, said about the HERO Act on Monday.

The New York HERO Act was created to further reduce the spread of infectious airborne diseases in the workplace, whether that be during the COVID-19 pandemic or other potential outbreaks in the future. Under the bill, the Department of Labor and the Department of Health would set enforceable standards that businesses must follow when it comes to protocols like personal protective equipment, disinfecting and testing. 

However, some business owners say the legislation will not help economic recovery, and instead add to the burdens they’ve endured during the pandemic.

“We need to tap the breaks and we need to be thinking about easing burdens, doing things that make sense, that protect the public, and protect workers, absolutely. We’ve been doing that from the start but let’s have some reality here,” said Associated General Contractors of New York State President and CEO Mike Elmendorf.

“This legislation is extremely broad and expansive and applies to all airborne infectious diseases beyond COVID-19 and there will be significant costs borne by small businesses,” said Ashley Ranslow with NFIB.

In addition to the new safety standards, workplaces would need to create and maintain safety committees.

“I support the stipulations in this bill that would establish safety committees composed of employees and management because it is front-line workers who know best what they need to stay safe,” Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said on Monday.

Under the legislation, which needs to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, workers are also protected from retaliation by their employer for reporting health and safety violations in the workplace.

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