The State Department of Labor released the Airborne Infectious Disease Prevention Standard, Model Airborne Infectious Disease Prevention Plan, and industry specific templates, including for the Food Services industry, to facilitate compliance with the recently enacted HERO Act.
The HERO Act requires employers to adopt and maintain an airborne infectious disease prevention plan to be implemented when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.” This plan will not apply to any seasonal or endemic infectious agent or disease, such as the seasonal flu, that has not been designated by the Commissioner as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.
Currently, while employers must adopt plans as required by the law, no such designation has been made by the Commissioner and plans are not required to be in effect. But all employers have obligations under this new law they need to meet over the next few months nonetheless.
The law requires employers to adopt a written plan within 30 days of the release of these documents. Therefore, all employers should have a written plan in place no later than Thursday, August 5, 2021. Employers then have 30 days after adoption to communicate the plan to their employees. There must be a verbal review of the plan as well as posting the plan in the workplace and included in your employee handbook. The deadline for communicating the existence of your plan to your employees is Saturday, September 4, 2021.
In general, other than developing and communicating the plan itself, there are no additional responsibilities placed on employers at this time. It is only when the plan is activated by a designation of the Commissioner of Health that new employer obligations kick in.
There is a second part of the HERO Act that will be effective November 1, 2021. It will require employers with at least 10 employees to permit the establishment of workplace safety committees to address airborne infectious disease in the workplace. The Department of Labor will be providing more information about the implementation of these committees over the summer. We will notify you of any noteworthy updates.