The first phase of the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (HERO Act or Act) required employers to adopt an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan (Plan) by August 5, 2021. As part of the Act, there was a secondary requirement of permitting employees to establish a joint labor-management workplace safety committee. This requirement applies to employers with 10 or more employees and went into effect on November 1.
What Can A Safety Committee Do?
A committee can, among other things, review workplace policies relating to occupational safety and health including reviewing employer modifications of its HERO Act plan. More specifically, a safety committee can:
- Raise health and safety concerns, to which employers must respond;
- Review health and safety policies, including policies enacted in response to laws, executive orders or guidance;
- Participate in government workplace site visits;
- Review employer-filed reports related to workplace health and safety;
- Meet quarterly during working hours for up to two hours; and
- Attend a training, up to four hours, on occupational health and safety and the function of worker safety committees.
In addition, the Act prohibits retaliation against any employee who participates in the activities or establishment of a workplace safety committee.
Next Step for Employers
It should be noted that the Act does not require employers to establish a committee; rather, it requires employers to allow employees to form a committee. As such, employers are not required to provide a proactive notice to employees regarding the formation of a committee, but if employees indicated that they want to do so an employer must permit them to and should also ensure that at least two-thirds of the committee members are comprised of non-supervisory employees in order to comply with the Act.
The state has also said that workplace safety committee guidance would be provided prior to the November 1 effective date. As of the date of this post, that guidance still has not yet been issued, as a result, it is recommended that employers continue to check the NY HERO Act website for the release of any new and updated guidance.