On September 6, 2021, New York Governor Hochul announced that the New York Commissioner of Health had designated COVID-19 as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to public health under the New York HERO Act (the “HERO Act”). This new designation requires all New York employers to implement workplace safety and protection plans under the HERO Act and to post and distribute the plans to all employees. Employers can use a general New York State model prevention plan or an industry-specific prevention plan published on the New York Department of Labor website.

This new designation requires employers to adopt, publish, and immediately implement an exposure protection plan specific to COVID-19 by, among other things:

  1. Designating one or more supervisory employees to monitor compliance and investigate complaints;
  2. Updating and verbally reviewing the exposure protection plan with employees;
  3. Providing personal protective equipment;
  4. Posting the plan at each worksite;
  5. Including the plan in employee handbooks, and;
  6. Prohibiting retaliation against employees who in good faith raise safety concerns.

On the federal level, OSHA also issued an emergency COVID standard for healthcare employers in July 2021 (https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets), as well as general guidelines for all other employers in August 2021 and July 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces (https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework).

President Biden also just directed OSHA to promulgate a new emergency standard for employers with over 100 employees regarding mandatory vaccines and mandatory testing. It is anticipated that the OSHA standard may also address general COVID workplace safety standards and paid time off for vaccines and adverse effects from vaccines. At this time, the new OSHA standards are expected by early October 2021.

We will keep you informed of any developments.